A feast of fests

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June 25, 2002 // UPDATED 1:25 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Terrell Brown
Terrell Brown

One of the best things about living Downtown is the endless array of summertime celebrations

A couple of weekends ago, I wandered down to Stone Arch Arts Festival, an event along the river. As you might imagine it's a little art festival along Main Street with one end near the Stone Arch Bridge. It's one of the many events that pop up around Downtown during the summer.

I started thinking about some of the events here in the neighborhood -- some new, some that were around before my time. Others have disappeared over the years.

Many of the events are centered on music or entertainment, some around food; others are more of an excuse to consume adult beverages (with beer seemingly the beverage of choice). One bills itself as an oyster-eating contest.

It starts in the beginning of June when the musicians begin camping out on Peavey Plaza, just outside of Orchestra Hall. The food booths join them, welcoming people over the noon hour and in the early-evening hours. Flip the calendar and a new radio station sponsor comes along with its collection of food and music. Just that could cause a person to hang around for the

summer.

In many communities, the 4th of July is the summer highlight with a big fireworks display. We just have a little one because we know the real thing, the big one, is coming a couple of weeks later.

Yes, Aquatennial. Our mega-fest fills the pockets of Minneapolis police officers with overtime dollars as it begins with the City of Lakes' version of Oktoberfest: a big beer bash right in the middle of Hennepin Avenue. After its many events, Aquatennial ends with its fireworks extravaganza a week and a half later.

But at this time of year, when everyone needs an excuse to have a party -- a party more exciting than your councilmember's fundraiser -- we also celebrate Bastille Day, July 14. Yes, we join the French in celebrating their revolt of a few hundred years ago. It may not be a well-advertised event, but it draws a nice crowd for music and sun on a Sunday afternoon.

We even celebrate ribs. I think this is a purely commercial venture that was dreamed up in a conference room of some events promoter. But, it does draw people, and the smell of a few thousand meals on the grill isn't bad.

One of my favorite events disappeared. For at least a couple of years, we had this end-of-summer event called "The Mill City Music Festival." Mill City featured many types of music on several Warehouse District stages. I think most of the people attending actually came for the music, which was genuinely good.

Mill City ran into a rather unique problem. There was a theatre in the middle of the Fest area that needed to be moved to Hennepin Avenue.

At one point, someone over at City Hall thought the move should happen on Labor Day weekend (well, Labor Day weekend and then some). We had to get the theatre moved so construction could start where the theatre was.

Well, this is Minneapolis. Things on the theatre's former Block E home never happen when City Hall thought they would, so the only thing that came out of it that year was that we lost a great music festival.

Later on, after a few more City Council debates, we moved the theatre. Even later they started construction. Alas, we moved the theatre, but haven't done anything with it, or to it, since.

Sometimes Downtown could be more inviting for those drawn to our events. We aren't making progress when, for example, our nice little sidewalk cafs are joined by mega-cafs such as outside the new institutional-style Marketplace at 11th Street and Nicollet Mall.

Now Marketplace has a design reminiscent of, and as institutional as, a school cafeteria. It really doesn't qualify to move outside. Add to that its sidewalk caf that utilizes nearly the entire sidewalk, which narrows as it nears the corner. It just says "go away."

Too bad we lost Jitter's and The Times; it's even worse when we see what replaces them. Fortunately, our events do better.

Terrell Brown works Downtown and lives in Loring Park.