A good place to realize exactly how diverse Minnesota culture is would be to visit the St. Paul River Centre in Downtown St. Paul. The 69th Anniversary of The Festival of Nations takes place May 4-6. The River Centre will host 100 ethnic groups and their historic traditions including, folk dance, food, cultural exhibits, and an international bazaar. Stop in and try some Armenian Aghtsan (tossed salad), or maybe some Hungarian Goulash is more your style.
Tickets are $8.50 at the door, or you can get advance tickets at any Byerly’s Food Store for $7.00.
Friday the 4th: 4pm-11pm
Saturday the 5th: 10am-10pm
Sunday the 6th: 11am-7pm.
Blood curdling screams have been a sign of success for Minnesota’s greatest amusement park. For 25 years, Valley Fair (952-445-7600, 800-FUN-RIDE) has succeeded in making a profit from making people scream, laugh and wish they hadn’t eaten lunch. Featuring over 75 rides and attractions, Valley Fair boasts 6 rollercoasters, including The Wild Thing which drops you a mind-bending 207 feet. If you like to spend your rollercoaster time upside down, the Corkscrew is your ride. The newest attraction is the Power Tower, a vertical drop of 275 feet. Twice.
For those who prefer to keep their lunch, there is the Pepsi Imax Theatre with a six storey screen that makes any movie larger than life. Valley Fair is open May 26 through Labor Day, there are two preview weekends, May 12-13 and May 19-20. You must be 48 inches or taller to ride the “real” rides, but there are plenty of rides for children of all ages. A full day will cost you $28.95, a half day which starts after 5:00pm runs $16.50. Valley Fair is located in Shokopee, about 25 minutes SW of Minneapolis.
One of my personal favorite festivals in the city is the May Day Parade and Festival (612-721-2535). It’s a true celebration of spring. Costumes, floats, and street performers represent the new life spring brings. The parade, which should not be missed for its wonderfully creative floats, starts at Bloomington Avenue and 26th Street and winds down to Powerderhorn Park where the true celebrations are going on. Tons of food vendors and activities will keep you and any little ones entertained for the day. Everyone comes out for this one.
About four hours SE of Minneapolis in the Mississippi River Valley, there are tons of small towns with lots of character and amazing beauty. It’s also a good place to experience some of the things a city can’t give you. Each small town is unique and better than the one you just left, and any towny in the local bar will verify that.
Winona is hosting a Traditional American Indian Pow-wow on May 5th and 6th. Campers should set up camp at the Prairie Island Campground. There will be enough dancing and food for all. For more info 1-507-454-6987.
Not far from Winona is Elba, MN, where Larry Lonik (mr. mushroom) will host free seminars during the MN mushroom festival. If you think you know your mushrooms, enter the picking contest for a small fee. All this craziness is going on May 12th. Campers are encouraged to stay at the beautiful White Water State Park where there is room for 120 campsites. There will also be arts and crafts for sale, no doubt mushroom related. For more info 1-507-932-5489.
This year from May 18-20th Cushon’s Peak Campground will host the Money Creek Junction Bluegrass Festival. This festival is for the serious bluegrass fan. The city of Houston, MN will host both local and national bands. Admission for all 3 days is $22.00. Friday is $8, Saturday $12, and Sunday $8 if purchased individually. Rain or shine is not a problem since all shows will take place inside the music building. Bring your lawn chairs but not your pets. For more info, tickets, or camping arrangements call Tom or Judy Vix 1-507-896-PEAK.
Going Up North…
Duluth, Minnesota is the gateway to the “arrow head” (the northeastern point of MN). Set on the shores of the Great Lake Superior, there is a view from every window. The adjacent hill is so steep in some places, it looks as if the town and its people may go sliding into the lake at any moment. Until it does however, there are so many things to do out of doors you may never have to go indoors again. May 3-5 Duluth has its annual rock and roll party. HomeGrown 3 will host almost 40 bands over three days. A local brewery, Fitger’s Brewery, is sponsoring the first day’s events. For more info call 218-727-7585.
Ever heard a Jug Band? I thought that was folklore for Hillbillies, but apparently it’s a real deal. On May 27, Duluth will host its 5th annual Battle of the Jug Bands. Even stranger, a bakery is holding the contest. Amazing Grace Bakery and Cafe is much more than a Bakery, but it sounds silly. They host music almost every night of the week and Monday nights they have the always entertaining “open stage” night. So bring your guitar and feel good about playing on the same stage as a bunch of jug-heads.
Biwabik does it again!
On May 5th, Biwabik celebrates their Spring Family Festival, oh and a bike ride. “A delightful Celebration…”, that includes rides and entertainment in the gazebo. There will be wares for sale throughout the park, which is a wonderful place to hang out and wait for the bikers to return from their ride. There are two options for the bike ride an 18 mile route and a 30 mile route. I can’t stress enough what a fun community this is. Look for a report from the festivities in the June Update.