Just reviving Taste of Minnesota after a three-year hiatus was a daunting enough challenge for Linda Maddox. Then, Mother Nature added another twist.
“Who would think that you’d have flooding in June?” she asked.
With St. Paul’s Harriet Island nearly covered by the swollen Mississippi River, Maddox had only a few days to come up with Plan B for relocating the two dozen food and beverage vendors, 29 musical acts and huge fireworks displays. After weighing offers, organizers decided the July 3-6 festival will be held at the Carver County Fairgrounds in Waconia.
“We only found out last Friday that we definitely couldn’t hold it at Harriet Island,” Maddox said on Thursday. “Since then, we’ve been searching and searching and searching. We figured if we didn’t have a decision by today, we’d have to cancel it.
“It’s going to be a mad dash.”
Maddox recently took on the challenge of reviving what had been one the state’s most popular summer events, which was started in 1983 by her late husband, former St. Paul City Council Member Ron Maddox and Dick Broeker. Originally a free event on the Capitol grounds, the festival was an important part of the family until it was sold in 2009.
International Event Management took it in a different direction, promising upgraded food and music but also charging admission of $10 to $30. That strategy backfired, and the company filed for bankruptcy in December 2010.
Linda Maddox, who helped her husband run the event for years, wants to return it to its roots, including hiring the former management team. The festival will again have free admission for at least part of the day, with a minimal charge at other times.
The festival had considered a return to the Capitol grounds, she said, but the grounds were unavailable. Jackpot Junction in Morton, Minn., near Redwood Falls, and the city of Albert Lea were among communities that inquired about hosting the festival, Maddox said, but she was hoping to keep it in the Twin Cities.
“St. Paul has always been home to the Taste of Minnesota, and I would have loved to have had it there this first year back,” she said. “I anticipate we’ll be back in St. Paul next year.”