A handful of business owners and others think they can rescue Grand Old Day, the long-running St. Paul street festival in June, despite its sponsor abruptly canceling the event last week.
The organizers have to raise $100,000 by May 6, the deadline set by the contractor who sets up Grand Old Day.
"The next 24 to 48 hours is super important," said Andy Rodriguez, one of two organizers of what's been called Grand Old Day Anyway. "Is there a chance to do a full scale Grand Old Day? There is."
Sponsors and vendors would need to pitch in with funds. Organizers have set up a GoFundMe site as well, for anyone from the public to donate.
Bob Lawrence, the new vice president of the Grand Avenue Business Association, said the festival has cost about $190,000 to put on, with vendors and sponsors covering about half of that.
"Your fixed costs don't really change a lot," he said, mentioning traffic control, police, sanitation and portable toilets. "If we can still get the money for that infrastructure, we can pull it off."
Rodriguez and Ashley LeMay sparked this last-ditch effort to save the festival. Within hours of the cancellation announcement, LeMay, whose family owns Tavern on Grand, and Rodriguez, who works for St. Paul Parks and Recreation, created a Facebook page dedicated to enticing people to Grand Avenue on the first Sunday in June, when Grand Old Day would have taken place, with a pub crawl.
Sara Luoma, general manager at the Lexington, had the same idea and soon began planning with several other bars and restaurants on Grand. Then she saw the Grand Old Day Anyway Facebook page, which now has more than 14,000 followers, and plans got bigger.
"There are bars and restaurants along Grand that want to participate. In fact, we know people are going to show up down here anyway," Luoma said. "This was a good vehicle to do something so all the businesses' hard work doesn't go to waste."
Still, she said, it's going to be tough.
"The reality is we are going to see how badly people want to see this thing go," she said.
If organizers cannot pull it off, the pub crawl will still be on.
"We have a meeting set for 5 p.m. Thursday just to see where we are at," said LeMay, who is working to find sponsors. "No matter what happens, we will consider it a Grand Old Day anyway. Nothing would have happened if we didn't try."
Aimee Hanson, owner of Spara Realty and a longtime Grand Old Day participant, said restaurants and vendors have bought extra inventory to sell at the festival and hope it won't be wasted. She sponsors a band to play in front of Stogies every year. Hanson said she's already paid them and has no plans to take back the money.
"So let's organize and get the word out," Hanson said.