Classic cars gather every Wednesday night in Stillwater’s Lowell Park during the summer. The Cruisin’ on the St. Croix car shows include food vendors, music and other activities. The shows are one part of the effort to draw families to the downtown.

, Contributed photo

Stillwater nonprofit specializing in affordable, accessible events

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW
  • Star Tribune
  • July 20, 2012 - 6:55 PM

Stillwater's Lumberjack Days is a thing of a past, but its absence has not created an ongoing void in summertime entertainment.

A nonprofit called Summer Tuesday Inc. is doing its part to make sure of that.

Ten years ago a group of downtown business leaders launched Summer Tuesdays, a series of evening programs that feature music, movies and entertainment designed to draw families downtown. In recent years the group has added a Wednesday night car show, and the new Paint on the Water, a graffiti art, hip-hop music and dance festival, will debut later this summer.

"We have events 19 weeks a year to bring Valley residents downtown," said Scott Zahren, one of the organizers of the four family-themed events, which also includes the annual Harvest Fest in October. "People don't want to be pushed and shoved. They want to have a good time."

The city cancelled its marquee festival earlier this year amid allegations that the event's organizer, Dave Eckberg and St. Croix Events, did not pay its bills and owes money to several businesses, groups and the City of Stillwater. Criminal charges will be forthcoming, authorities have said.

While Lumberjack Days brought a crush of people to Lowell Park on the last weekend of July, Zahren said Summer Tuesday Inc.'s events are much smaller in scale and designed to give people the opportunity to escape the mid-week madness and take in free entertainment.

This year's Summer Tuesdays events continue through Aug. 21. Festivities include a marketplace featuring more than 35 vendors hawking clothing, handcrafted art and jewelry, and food, and weekly concerts on Tuesdays from 5:30 to 9 p.m. followed by a movie. Upcoming films include "Toy Story," "Secretariat," "Rudy," "Up" and "The Goonies."

Scores of shiny hot rods and vehicles sporting tailfins and chrome line the St. Croix River from Chestnut to Mulberry streets on Wednesdays through Aug. 29. Called Cruisin' on the St. Croix, the fete includes food vendors and live concerts from 5 to 10 p.m. Steve Sullivan and the Factory Band plays this week.

"This is where parents go to the park, have a picnic and kids can dance to the music," said Cassie McLemore, a member of the nonprofit who recently left her position at the Northern Vineyards Winery but continues to promote Summer Tuesday events.

About 300 people turned out for last week's events. Promoters are hoping that the more intimate, accessible and affordable events will create a positive impression and bring them back to eat and shop at other times during the year.

With a goal of attracting new visitors to downtown and educating others about the Hip-Hop culture, Summer Tuesday is putting together Paint on the Water for Sept. 8. It will feature educational demonstrations of graffiti art along with Hip-Hop music and dance, Zahren said.

The group also will sponsor the Harvest Fest, including the Great Pumpkin Weigh Off, in October.

Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @timstrib

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