Bring your wagon! Tote the kids around when they get tired, and store your fest gear and other things you buy along the way. PS: Don’t forget the Tums! Photo by Paul Nelson.
Fact: When July and August roll around in Minnesota, pretty much every event on the calendar has the word “festival” in it. The best festivals, though, have a reason for being above and beyond the universal need to stroll and eat. My favorite festivals have a theme—the sillier the better—and happen in small towns or semi-cities where any excuse to gather and gawk is still a big deal.
This town’s RiverSong Music Festival (July 15–16) gets more respectable every year (The Voice finalist Kat Perkins, Jeremy Messersmith, and Charlie Parr are featured this year). Hutchinson also holds the Minnesota Pottery Festival (July 23–24), a truly impressive gathering of ceramics artists from throughout the region.
The Blueberry Arts Festival in Ely (July 29–31) features more than 260 northern artists and crafters.
It isn’t all about Paul Bunyan in Hackensack. They’ve also got The Hackensack Hot Jazz Festival (July 8–9).
During Duluth’s Sidewalk Days Festival (July 13–15), Superior Street is shut down for three days to celebrate a rare alignment of the sun and Earth that allows people up north to walk outside in shorts. The words “Duluth” and “reggae” don’t often get used in the same sentence, but the city’s Reggae and World Music Festival (July 16) is worth checking out. Another music fest, the Bayfront Blues Festival (Aug. 12–14), has gotten so large and respectable over the past few years that it qualifies as a bonafide destination event. If Duluth ever combined the blues fest with its All Pints North Summer Brew Fest (July 23), they’d achieve something close to perfection.
Back in the ’90s, Braham declared itself the Homemade Pie Capital of Minnesota, and proudly flies that flag every year with its Braham Pie Day (Aug. 5). The fest has everything: a theme (pies, pies, and more pies), music, kids’ activities, contests (a hands-free pie-eating contest), a quilt show, craft booths, dancing, and the chance to snap a selfie with the mascots, Mr. Pastry and the Berry Fairy.