Celebrating its 10th year on April 6, Holland Neighborhood’s Hotdish Revolution has evolved to become a quintessential ‘Nordeast’ event.
The annual cooking competition challenges neighbors to enter a hot dish into what has become six different categories: Spicy, Vegetarian, Tater Tot Excellence, I Made It! (kids), Darn Good (beef, pork, other), and Fins and Feathers.
The dishes are judged by a panel of Northeast ‘celebrities’ and then devoured by the boisterous crowd.
The neighborhood fundraiser’s success is rooted in the universal appeal of Minnesota’s most traditional, most Minnesooootan dish, but its continued growth is due to tweaks made along the way that accommodate the cultural and demographic changes happening in Northeast.
“It’s one of those events that blends the old and the new,” said Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association (HNIA) President Adelheid Koski. “I can’t think of anything that embodies the energy of the Northeast community more than this.”
For instance, the Jell-O competition has turned into an art contest spurred on by the creativity of the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District.
“People go just go to look at the Jell-Os! Oh, some people must work for days on them,” said Lily Vaughn, a former HNIA board member and three (or maybe four, no one is quite certain)-time hot dish award winner.
Past winners of the Jell-O contest include a Barbie and Ken-themed creation, Moses parting the Red Sea, and a television set made out of Jell-O.
“When you’re dealing with artists nothing is out of the question,” said Vaughn.
A new wrinkle added last year was that all of the Northeast craft breweries donated kegs or growlers, and flights of four different beers were sold for $10. Also last year attendance topped 500 people for the first time, and mayoral candidates served as the celebrity judges for the roughly 100 different hot dishes entered.
Rooted in Neighborhood Rivalries
Hotdish Revolution was conceived in 2004 by HNIA staffers Kevin Reich, who now serves as the Ward 1 City Council Member, and Karen Peterson, who now works at the US Embassy in Bogota, Columbia. The first-ever event was held on April 23, 2005 in Pulaski Auditorium, a small gym across the street from Sacred Heart Polish National Church.
“In the early days it was very much a contest among neighborhood leaders,” said Reich. “There was a lot of fake trash talk being thrown around by certain people in different neighborhoods, but in a way where it was like a real feud, like it was all-star wrestling or something.”
The local rivalries no longer take center stage – last year there were attendees from as far away as Duluth and Wisconsin – but everyone is still very much aware of which neighborhood comes away with the most awards.
“Well my goodness, we can’t have Windom Park or any of those other neighborhoods come in and take all of the prizes,” said Vaughn.
“Oh, it’s always a big deal when someone from St. Paul wins,” added Reich. “There’s this ‘whooooaaaa’ that goes through the crowd, like ‘someone from St. Paul won, what?’”
Competition aside, it’s the event’s jovial energy, an atmosphere that playfully borders on chaos, that keeps people coming back every year. There’s a roving accordion player and impromptu haiku competitions, which will be officially sponsored by Friends of the Northeast Library this year. Tatooed twenty-somethings sit next to grandmothers, and kids are everywhere.
“Last year it was a good mix where it still felt like a neighborhood event, but there were so many people you couldn’t help but have a really good time, the energy was just infectious,” said Koski.
Hotdish Revolution has grown out of several venues already, and after nearly reaching capacity last year at St. Maron’s Cedars Hall, it’s running out of places in Northeast that can still hold it.
“It’s always great to have growth, but would this be an event for 2,000 people? I don’t know, it might not have the same vibe,” said Koski.
2014 Hotdish Revolution
Sunday, April 6, 4-7 p.m.
St. Maron's Cedars Hall, 602 University Ave. NE
Doors at 4 for entries, judging at 4:30, dining at 5
$5 with a dish, $10 without
$5 kids 5-12, kids under 5 free