MADISON LAKE — To organizer Cynthia Frederick, gathering several hundred women to march in the World’s Largest Bikini Parade was a fun idea for a sun-suffused fundraiser.
“It just seemed like a natural fit to be able to raise public awareness of the importance of higher vitamin D levels,” said Frederick, owner of the Electric Beach tanning salon in Mankato.
To the Madison Lake City Council, this entry in the July 28 Paddlefish Days parade is not in keeping with a family tone.
“This parade shouldn’t have this image,” Councilman Chuck Ries said.
Frederick is hoping to break the world record for number of bikini-clad marchers in a parade, which was set earlier this year in Florida at 450.
But councilors are also concerned about the charity that will benefit from the walk, called the Breast Cancer Natural Prevention Foundation. According to its website, the group advocates cancer prevention through sun exposure and higher vitamin D levels.
Ries said he’s not a doctor, but tanning as a cancer-fighting activity is “inconsistent with (his) understanding” of the science.
Despite their opposition — four of five councilors are opposed to the bikini walk, the Lake Region Times reported July 11 — it doesn’t appear the City Council can prevent them from taking to the streets.
Madison Lake City Administrator Kelly Steele checked with the League of Minnesota Cities, which told her that it can’t bar specific parade entries.
Frederick said she has been surprised by the opposition, but said rumors around town have been spreading misinformation.
“Whenever you’re going to do something new, people have a tendency to be scared, especially when they don’t have information,” she said.
A 2-piece idea
The idea for the bikini walk has been rolling around in Frederick’s head for a few years, ever since she saw a report about a similar event in Australia.
“I remember thinking, ‘That sounds like a really fun thing to do,’” she said.
While all that exposed skin is raising eyebrows in Madison Lake, population 1,017, it has a business and health tie-in to Frederick.
She said medical studies have shown the cancer benefits of higher vitamin D levels “through exposing your skin to UVB light in a non-burning fashion.”
“That’s what we have always practiced at the salon,” she said. “We want to help people achieve color a healthy way.”
“What’s really sad is so many people — young women and older people — are very deficient in their D3 (vitamin D) levels. It can prevent a lot of health issues that we are facing in the world today,” Frederick said.
Walkers in the parade, including men and non-bikini’d women, are paying $20 to $25 to participate, which will go to the charity and offset costs for T-shirts (presumably to be worn afterward).
Why Madison Lake?
Frederick said she had planned to hold the event at North Mankato’s Fun Days parade, but her son was married July 7. She looked at other small-town parades, and just thought July 28 sounded like a good date.
She’s also inviting national media to cover the parade. Some may already be in the area to cover Vikings training camp, which starts July 26.
A different context
Frederick said the complaints about two-piece swimsuits remind her of the movie Footloose, in which a small town bans dancing and rock music.
“They are a lake city, they have several beaches,” she said. “You can go down to the beach at any time and you’re going to see people in bikinis.”
Ries, the councilman, said “our view is that takes the issue out of context.”
A beach, he said, is different than a parade with scores of bikini’d marchers.
“If you want to wear a bikini in the lake, more power to you,” he said.
And the connection to preventing breast cancer, he said, is artificial.
“We think it’s for business publicity more than anything else,” Ries said.
Madison Lake’s police chief, Dan Bunde, told the Lake Region Times he was worried the city’s three police officers could be faced with an unmanageable event.
“Paddlefish Days are my three worst days of the year,” he said.
The Breast Cancer Natural Prevention Foundation’s website trumpets studies showing a relationship between higher vitamin D levels and reduced rates of cancer.
Dr. James Benzmiller, a dermatopathologist at the Mankato Clinic, said studies have shown a relationship between lower vitamin D rates and higher cancer rates. But science “has never proven that a lack of vitamin D causes cancer.”
Benzmiller acquired his specialty after receiving more training about how to identify skin diseases. He said most of his job is looking at slides of skin under a microscope, often searching for cancer.
But even if vitamin D is eventually proven to prevent cancer, Benzmiller said he won’t recommend patients start tanning — either outside or in a bed.
Instead, he said people should get their vitamin D from a dietary source such as fortified cereal, oily fish and supplements.
What’s wrong with getting it from the sun?
Benzmiller said it’s simple: “There is no safe threshold of ultraviolet exposure.”
“Basically, UV radiation, whether it’s from a tanning bed or the sun, causes oncogenic (cancer-causing) radiation ... It’s not conjecture, it’s fact.”
Madison Lake’s mayor, Kenneth Reichel, said “I’m totally for the walk for cancer and I can’t emphasize that enough.”
But he’s concerned that he’s unable to find much information about the nonprofit. Its website, www.preventbc.org, does not say who is behind the group.
Reichel is worried the event will end up being “a black mark on Madison Lake.”
Frederick said there were similar concerns before other bikini parades, and they proved to be unfounded.
“It’s not like it’s illegal, immoral or unethical. I think they’re going to find this was not the bogeyman they’re making it out to be.”
For more information, type ‘bikini parade’ into Facebook’s search box. To sign up, stop by Electric Beach in Mankato, located at 2104 Hoffman Road.