Downtown's main events
Friday, June 25, the Twin Cities' GLBT Pride Block Party heats up the Ritz parking lot on South 4th Street and Nicollet Mall with '80s alt-rockers The Psychedelic Furs and hard-edged comedian Sandra Bernhard. Gates open at 5 p.m. Beloved pop-punk locals The Soviettes are among the opening groups. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the gate, and $60 for priority seating. (Heads up, the show sold out last year.)
Pride's crown jewel, the Pride Festival in Loring Park, 1382 Willow St., is Saturday-Sunday, June 26-27. The park-filling extravaganza features several stages and a wide variety of events, all free of charge.
The Rainbow Stage boasts round-the-clock sets with local bands -- including catchy popsters Skirr and dark indie rockers In Pictures -- while The Stonewall Stage is all drag shows, all the time.
New this year is the Mass Commitment Ceremony at the Loring Stage Sunday, June 27, 2:30 p.m. The mass ceremony (which isn't legally binding) is open to people of all religions and sexual orientations who want to celebrate their commitment while publicly showing their support for expanding the definition of marriage. Private ceremony spaces will also be available.
The festival also includes special activities for children, families and history buffs, and Pride's largest fireworks display yet the evening of Saturday, June 26.
On Sunday, June 27, the Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade winds its way along Hennepin Avenue from 3rd Street South to the Pride Festival in Loring Park. Full of everything from discoing drag queens to marching GLBT families, the parade attracted over 110,000 last year according to parade organizers, so nab your spot early.
For more information, go to www.tcpride.com or call the Prideline at 952-825-6100.
Grand Excursion and 4th of July celebration
Celebrate the nation's birthday on the banks of its most famous river. This year, the Minneapolis Riverfront 4th of July Celebration coincides with the Twin Cities Grand Flotilla of the Grand Excursion -- a recreation of an historic 1854 Chicago-to-Minneapolis/St. Anthony Falls trip of over 1,000 dignitaries and leaders of the day (including then-President Fillmore) via rail and steamboat.
In addition to the 11 a.m.-10 p.m. celebration's usual festivities -- including hundreds of vendor and exhibit booths -- this year's festivities include Flotilla-related events such as guided tours of the Stone Arch Bridge, Mill Ruins Park, and the Lock and Dam observation area, plus paddleboat and vintage steam train rides.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale will lead "A Gathering at the Falls" at 8:30 p.m. on Independence Day at Mill Ruins Park and Plank Road. The event symbolically recreates an 1854 ceremony in which water from the Atlantic Ocean was mixed with fresh river water at St. Anthony Falls. During the ceremony, conductor James Litton will direct a program written by American Indian composer Brent Michael Davids and sung by hundreds of children at the falls.
At 10 p.m., the grand finale begins -- fireworks pop along the riverbank.
Most events are free, but some require tickets. Call 378-1226 for more information, or visit www.riverfront corporation.com/gathering.asp.
Basilica Block Party
In 1994, a new event called the Basilica Block Party took over the 1600 block of Hennepin Avenue South. Now in its 10th year, the Cities 97 Basilica Block Party, "the party that begot all parties" (per party message-makers), is once again entertaining Downtown with a plethora of local and national talent Friday-Saturday, July 9-10.
In honor of its 10-year run, the block party is holding a 10K run (a 5K is also taking place) that stretches from the Basilica of St. Mary, on Hennepin Avenue and South 17th Street, to the Lake of the Isles in southwest Minneapolis Saturday, July 10.
Leading up to the big block party, the annual Basilica Battle of the Bands will take place Wednesdays in June throughout the metro area. Winners will get to play on the Star Tribune Stage at the block party on both days.
Famous Cities 97-fare rockers are scheduled to play, including Counting Crows, OAR, the Honeydogs, Five for Fighting, Joan Osbourne, Joe Firstman, Wheat and others.
According to Reverend Michael J. O'Connor, Basilica Block Party proceeds go to the ongoing restoration of the Basilica of Saint Mary -- the first basilica built in America.
Through June 30, one-night tickets are $23 or $115 for six; two-night passes are $40, and one-night tickets for kids 5-12 are $10.
For tickets or more information, call 317-3511 or log onto www.basilicablockparty.org.
The annual Minneapolis Aquatennial offers entertainment and activities that celebrate the rich heritage of the City of Lakes. Billed as the "10 Best Days of Summer," this 65-year tradition kicks off, as always, with the Subway Aquatennial Block Party Friday, July 16 and runs through Sunday, July 25.
This year, the kick-off party moves to Washington Avenue, stretching between Hennepin and 3rd Avenues South. Why the move? -- "More space to party!" according to Molly Mulvehill Steinke, an event spokesperson. The free gathering runs 6-10:30 p.m. and includes plenty of food and music. The BoDeans (scheduled to release their first new album in eight years in late June) headline this year; check www.aquatennial.org for more performers and attractions.
This year's Grande Day Parade, sponsored by U.S. Bank, is themed "Many Worlds Past and Present." The Saturday, July 17 event will feature units of Veterans of Foreign Wars' (VFW) posts as well as performers with the citywide arts and culture festival Minneapolis MOSAIC. The parade will run along Hennepin Avenue South, 12:30-2:30 p.m.
Aquatennial's other big parade, the Torchlight Parade, sponsored by CenterPoint Energy Minnegasco, is Wednesday, July 21, 8:30-10:30 p.m. This year's theme is "A Night of a Million Stars."
But the Aquatennial isn't all parties and parades. There are plenty of athletic events (including the Aquatennial Plaza Tennis Invitational in Downtown, Friday, July 23), fireworks (Saturday, July 24, 10-10:30 p.m. along the riverbanks) and special events (such as the Saturday, July 24, Friends of the Mississippi Canoe Adventure).
Call 376-7669 for more information, or check out www.aquatennial.org.
RibAmerica's Rockin' Ribfest
The 13th Annual County Market RibAmerica Festival -- a.k.a. Ribfest -- is coming to Downtown Wednesday-Sunday, July 28-Aug. 1. Ribfest will set up camp at the end of Nicollet Mall between South 3rd and 4th Streets.
Admission is free, though tickets for food and drink are to be purchased on-site. Come gorge yourself silly for a good cause, the March of Dimes, the official charity of RibAmerica 2004.
Ribfest is part of a national rib tour that brings the best ribs in the country to St. Louis, Cleveland and Pittsburgh before coming to Minneapolis. Award-winning vendors from Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Virginia, Illinois, Ohio and, of course, Minnesota's own Famous Dave's BBQ and Roscoe's BBQ, are all scheduled to have booths at the festival this year.
But a festival cannot survive on meat alone. Crowd-pleasing bands such as the neo-hippie Spin Doctors, swingers Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and power jammers Big Head Todd & the Monsters are all scheduled to play, among others.
The five-day event starts at 11 a.m. on weekdays and at noon over the weekend until 10:30 p.m. Ribfest closes Sunday, Aug. 1, 7:30 p.m.
For more information, visit www.ribamerica.com and click on the "Minneapolis" link.