Grand Old Day, St. Paul’s long-running unofficial start to summer, has been put on hold for a year.
It fell victim to a number of empty storefronts along Grand Avenue, along with rising expenses, including taxes, organizers said Tuesday.
“We want to take a fresh look at the event, to restructure and revamp for 2020,” said Allison Penner-Hurst, interim president of the Grand Avenue Business Association. “We will be coming back in 2020.”
Penner-Hurst said the costs for staging Grand Old Day were outstripping the money coming in, prompting a unanimous decision by the GABA board to take a one-year timeout.
“We just had to take a step back and be realistic about where we were,” she said.
The festival has been a mainstay on the first Sunday of June for the past 45 years, with hundreds of thousands of people strolling up and down the avenue. Officials tried having a two-day festival a couple of years ago, but returned to a single day last year.
Canceling this year’s event was disappointing to some who operate businesses on the avenue.
“But I guess I understand that there are challenges in trying to organize such a large event,” said Joan Trygg, store manager at the Red Balloon Bookshop. “We’re hoping whoever needs to will step up so we can do it again.”
The festival crowds often provide a bump in business, she said.
“It’s a good place for people to come in and sit down for a bit, especially if they have kids. We’re kid-friendly and dog-friendly,” Trygg said.
Business aside, Trygg personally would like Grand Old Day to make a comeback.
“I’ve lived near the avenue for many years, and it’s always been a fun event,” she said. “It’s fun to have all the activity on the street. But I don’t have to worry about planning it.”
The Grand Old Day Facebook page called the decision “difficult and unanimous.”
“Small family-owned businesses and the Grand Avenue Business Association have been the backbone of this event for the past 45 years,” the Facebook post said. “It is our wish to make sure we produce a successful, safe, and fun event next year.
“We will be looking to the community for input to create an event that reflects the traditions and interests of the businesses and neighbors who call Grand Avenue home.”
Staff writer Mary Lynn Smith contributed to this report.