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Published July 15 2012

Bikini parade raises eyebrows in Minnesota town

MADISON LAKE, Minn. — Cynthia Frederick thought it would be fun to gather several hundred women to march in what she's billing as the World's Largest Bikini Parade. The tanning salon owner envisions it as a sun-kissed fundraiser for breast cancer prevention that will raise awareness of the health benefits of higher vitamin D levels.

But to most members of the Madison Lake City Council, the idea runs counter to the family-friendly tone they want for the southern Minnesota community's Paddlefish Days parade next Saturday.

“This parade shouldn't have this image,” Councilman Chuck Ries said.

Still, it looks like the parade will go on, bikinis and all, The Free Press of Mankato reported Sunday.

Madison Lake City Administrator Kelly Steele checked with the League of Minnesota Cities, which told her that the community of 1,017 people can't bar specific parade entries.

Frederick, owner of Electric Beach in Mankato, said she's hoping to break a world record for bikini-clad marchers in a parade, which was set earlier this year in Florida at 450.

Council members also have expressed qualms about the charity that will benefit from the walk, the Breast Cancer Natural Prevention Foundation, which advocates cancer prevention through sun exposure and higher vitamin D levels.

Ries said tanning doesn't fit with his understanding of how to fight cancer. He said he thinks the connection to preventing breast cancer is contrived.

“We think it's for business publicity more than anything else,” Ries said.

Frederick said the idea for a bikini walk has been percolating in her head for a few years, ever since she saw a report about a similar event in Australia. 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.”

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,” he said, adding that if it ever is proven, he won't recommend patients start tanning. He said people should get their vitamin D from a dietary source instead.

Frederick said she had planned to hold the event at North Mankato's Fun Days parade, but her son got married that day. She looked at other small-town parades, and thought nearby Madison Lake's event sounded like a good date.

Bikini walkers will pay $20 to $25 to participate, which will go to the charity and offset costs for T-shirts.

Mayor Kenneth Reichel said he supports the walk, but that he's concerned that he's unable to find much information about the charity. Its website, http://www.preventbc.org, says little about who is behind the group. He said he's worried the event will end up being "a black mark on Madison Lake."

Frederick said similar concerns proved to be unfounded.

“It's not like it's illegal, immoral or unethical,” she said. “I think they're going to find this was not the boogeyman they're making it out to be.”