Minnesotans cherish warm weather, so there is no shortage of outdoor festivals and community events during our all-too-few warm weather months. One of the biggest and best of them is coming up in two weeks — even though it was set to be canceled as recently as last month.
Thanks to some dedicated, fast-acting boosters, St. Paul’s Grand Old Day will go on as scheduled June 2 — for its 46th year. The successful 11th-hour rescue is a tribute to the power of community action.
Grand Avenue Business Association (GABA) organizers almost skipped the 2019 event after facing the reality that they didn’t have the funds, time or volunteers to pull off the celebration. They announced last month that they were canceling the event this year, with the proviso that they would try to regroup, raise more money and bring the festival back in 2020.
But some die-hard supporters and business owners stepped up to propose an alternative, scaled-back event called Grand Old Day Anyway. When they put out the call for support on Facebook, it was followed by nearly 14,000 fans. Business sponsors and individual volunteers stepped up as well, according to Bob Lawrence, GABA vice president and festival chairman.
One major contributor was Richard Herod III, owner of White Bear Mitsubishi and a longtime sponsor of the event. When he learned that it was being canceled, he contributed another $15,000. “Grand Old Day is a city tradition to me. It’s all about community,” Herod told the Star Tribune. “This is the kickoff of summer, and we can’t have summer without Grand Old Day.”
Within days, the organizers had raised enough to bring their balance up to $75,000 and they felt confident they could raise the rest of the needed $200,000 budget through wristband sales and vendor and parade fees.
“There was such an outcry about it being canceled,” Lawrence told an editorial writer. “But after we met again with GABA members and other sponsors, we got a great response.”
Kudos to those who joined forces — quickly and effectively — to keep the popular street festival afloat. Their efforts saved a treasured tradition, not only for St. Paul but for the entire region.