The events have a number of things in common, but one stands out: They give people a chance to get outside and mingle with neighbors, and they instill civic pride. Here are some happening around the metro:


International festival of Burnsville July 12

In the early 2000s, Margo Swanson coordinated volunteers for an international festival at Nicollet Junior High in Burnsville.

The festival gave students the chance to showcase projects they’d done about countries around the world. At one point, “We outgrew the space when we introduced a mariachi band to several hundred students all doing ‘the macarena’ in the gym,” she said.

That experience dovetailed nicely with a city effort that arose shortly thereafter to cele­brate the city’s growing diversity. It also took the form of a festival celebrating world cultures. She jumped at the chance to help with that, as well, she said.

The annual International Festival of Burnsville started in 2007 after a try-out at the city’s Fire Muster event the year before, said Swanson, who is the festival’s chairwoman.

More than 23 percent of the city’s 61,120 ­residents are people of color, according to 2013 city information.

That’s where the festival comes in. Swanson, who leads the planning committee, said the idea is that as community members get acquainted and learn from one another, “the stereotyping and isolation will diminish.”

At the festival, people get to know one another through their art, including an exhibit with the theme “Bringing Heritage Home,” live music, ethnic food, presentations, multicultural displays, a “parade of flags,” traditional costumes and various family-friendly activities, she said.

It makes for a vibrant event, which happens at Nicollet Commons Park and the nearby Ames Center, according to Swanson.

Swanson, who is the site lead for the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school district’s community education program called Project K.I.D.S. at Edward Neill Elementary, said it’s also a fun way to meet students’ families.

She especially enjoys seeing people approach the giant world map and pinpoint their country of origin. “Whether they’ve been in Burnsville for years or only months, they are proud to call Burnsville home,” she said.

That’s what keeps her involved with the festival each year. It “makes us all better neighbors. While we recognize and explore what makes us culturally different, we’re truly bringing home our heritage and our shared values,” she said.


What: International Festival of Burnsville

Where: Nicollet Commons Park and Ames Center (formerly Burnsville Performing Arts Center)

When: July 12, 3-9 p.m.



Brooklyn Park

Tater Daze June 12-15

Tater Daze, now in its 50th year, harkens to the early days of Brooklyn Park. It was the potato that put the city on the map, says Diane Sannes, who is active with the Brooklyn Historical Society.

When the city was forming, potato farms were its main industry. Tater Daze gave farmers a chance to promote their business.

Sannes was a “Tater Spud,” or volunteer, at the 1968 festival. That year, though the city still had 18 potato growers, the area’s potato farms were already on the decline, and the landscape was changing, she said.

In its early years, the festival spanned eight days. Today, it’s only four, but there’s still plenty of action scheduled: baseball, bingo, live music including a Father’s Day Blues Fest, root beer float social, hot air balloon rides, movie screening, fireworks, carnival, talent show and Golden Spud Hunt — similar to St. Paul’s Winter Carnival medallion hunt.

A special fundraising effort is adding another layer, as well. Between now and the end of the festival, the city is trying to raise $75,000 for Brooklyn Avenues, a transitional housing project for homeless youth, said Mayor Jeff Lunde. The St. Paul-based Otto Bremer Foundation will match whatever the city raises up to that amount, said Lunde.

If the city reaches its goal by the festival’s last day, as a part of a game show-like “Couch Potato Challenge,” Lunde will perform 75 ­Stupid Human Trick-type feats — “within reason. I won’t break the law.”

Another project tied to the festival involves marching bands and the main parade. Last year, only the Park Center High School band marched in the parade, because of budgetary constraints, according to Denice Wojack, president of the Park Center Band Boosters. This year, the booster organization has been able to raise the more than $2,000 needed for the parade. Park Center will be joined by the Champlin Park and Osseo high school marching bands, and the group is trying to line up others, said Wojack, whose daughter is in the color guard in the Park Center band.


What: Tater Daze Festival

When: June 12-13, 5-11:30 p.m.; June 14, 7 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.; June 15, noon-5 p.m.

Where: 4701 Oak Grove Pkwy., Brooklyn Park

Information: tater-daze or call 763-493-8013.


Whiz Bang Days July 10-13

Whiz Bang Days, which has its roots in wartime, takes its name from a now out-of-print magazine that started up in Robbinsdale in 1919.

The magazine, “Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang,” was a playful read that aimed to cheer up servicemen, according to Candice Norton, a festival organizer and longtime Robbinsdale resident.

The magazine’s publisher, Wilford Hamil­ton “Captain Billy” Fawcett, had previously been an Army captain. Whiz Bang refers to the “land-to-land” bombs that were used in World War I — that is, the bombs whizzed by and landed with a bang, she explained.

The magazine did so well that the city incorporated the title into the community festival’s name when it began 66 years ago.

Today, a traditional ice cream social kicks off the festivities. Other highlights include an art exhibit, flower show, log rolling, bocce ball tournament, bingo, inflatable rides, parade, wine tasting, talent show and food trucks. The classic car show is also coming back for its second year, as it got a good turnout last year, she said.

The festival also will mark the opening of the city’s new Lee Park baseball field on Thursday, July 10. A number of former Twins players will be on hand for that, and a Little League game will break in the new field that day, she said.

The youth “ambassador” program is hosting a coronation ceremony at Hollingsworth Park on the northern end of Crystal Lake. People can get settled in with blankets and lawn chairs and stay for the fireworks over the lake, Norton said.

Over the festival weekend, the 60-member City Band that formed in 1906 will give a concert in the park.

Lively music at the block party near the city’s water tower, which stands out for the robin illustration on its exterior, is “intended to make you want to get up and dance,” she said. That’s what she gravitates to at the festival. “There’s nothing better than having a lot of neighbors all in one area,” enjoying the food, music and camaraderie, she said.


What: Robbinsdale Whiz Bang Days

Where: downtown Robbinsdale area; W. Broadway between 37th and 42nd avenues N. and beyond (see online schedule for full listing)

When: July 10-13 (check website for times) Information: or e-mail or call 763-531-1212.



Rivertown art festival May 31-June 1

The Rivertown Art Festival, one of many outdoor celebrations happening in Stillwater in the coming months, is a “strong presence in the artist community,” says Todd Streeter, who heads the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce.

That has partly to do with its longevity; the festival has been around for 37 years.

The 120-plus artists already signed up will set up on the north end of Lowell Park in downtown Stillwater.

Every year, the artists’ offerings run the gamut, with pottery, woodworking, metalwork, ceramics, clothing, drawing, jewelry, painting, photography and other media on display. And some artists’ creations don’t fit into any one category.

The art show is a juried event that gives out awards to top-notch artists, which demonstrates the idea that “we take it seriously,” Streeter said.

Another draw is the festival’s “marketplace,” in its third year. It offers artisanal soap, honey, gourmet sauces and other items that aren’t necessarily straight-up art — more like crafts, he said.

While they’re checking out the art, people can also take in the local sights, like the quaint downtown area, St. Croix riverfront and the historic Lift Bridge. “We encourage people to walk through the different stores and eateries and make a day of it. There’s so much to see and do,” he said.


What: Rivertown Art Festival

Where: Lowell Park, 101 Water St. S., Stillwater

When: Saturday, May 31, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, June 1, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.



Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at