It’s not common for a small, midwestern town to be noted world-wide for being the hometown of an Olympic athlete, much less an Olympic medalist. For that matter, it’s not very common that a small-town, midwestern teenager to soar to such a stature on sports’ biggest stage either. So when those anomalies do take place, a grand celebration is inevitable to take place. Such was the scene on Saturday night, Aug. 7 as the City of Isanti welcomed home Grace McCallum, who helped the U.S. Womens Gymnastics Team win the silver medal during the Tokyo Olympics.
“We might be a town of 6,000,” Isanti Mayor Jeff Johnson told reporters prior to the ceremony, “but we show the pride of a million.”
That figure might have been a slight exaggeration, but the gist of the statement was on full display Saturday night as multiple chants of “USA! USA! USA!” resounded throughout the crowd that had converged upon the stage at the intermission of the monthly street dance.
The ceremony included area youth gymnasts tossing out red, white and blue beads to the crowd, an extended blast from the Isanti Fire District’s ladder truck air horn, a large American flag draped from the truck’s extended ladder, an official proclamation of Aug. 7 being “Grace McCallum Day,” a commemorative plaque presented by the North 65 Chamber of Commerce, a short question and answer session moderated by Rockie Ramacher-Dye and Erika Zdon, two of McCallum’s coaches during some of her formative years in the sport, and concluded with her exit from the stage accompanied by the playing of Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”
The night also included a meet and greet with the gymnasts participating in the ceremony; a presentation of jerseys from the Rum River Mallards hockey team, with her name emblazoned in silver lettering; along with a second recognition at the Rum River BMX track.
For her part, McCallum repeatedly showed her appreciation for the accolades bestowed upon her.
“I think it’s crazy, I would have never thought I would have a day named after me by my city, my hometown,” McCallum told reporters prior to the ceremony. “It’s really cool seeing all the support from back home (during the Olympics). My parents and friends would send me pictures. I just think it’s so cool to have so much support.
“You guys (the community) have been such a huge part of my journey and seeing how much you guys supported me back home, it was amazing,” McCallum told the crowd during the ceremony. “I feel so loved.”
McCallum’s actions punctuated her words as she happily signed autographs and posed for pictures at the side of the stage before being whisked away to the BMX track for even more accolades, photos and autographs.
The day was just a part of a flurry of activities McCallum is squeezing into just a two-week period between coming back from Japan and leaving for college, where she will be a freshman at the University of Utah and competing on the Utes’ gymnastics team. Besides numerous interviews with local, state, and national media, McCallum will participate in meet and greets at her current gym, Twin Cities Twisters, along with her former gym, Flyaways, which is based in Forest Lake.
This might not be the only time Isanti will have the opportunity to show their pride in McCallum, as she revealed to the crowd a run at competing in the 2024 Olympics in Paris isn’t out of the question.
“We’ll have to see how my body’s feeling and how I’m feeling mentally,” she told the crowd. “But that’s definitely something I’m taking into consideration, and I would love to do it again.”
Editor’s note: See a unique “interview” of McCallum in an upcoming edition of the Star.