Grand Old Day, St. Paul's unofficial start of summer, will return June 4 after a three-year hiatus — just in time for the festival's 50th anniversary.

Seemingly killed off first by the pandemic and then by rapidly rising costs for security and not enough time to plan, the last Grand Old Day was in 2019. But spurred by organizational help and sponsor recruitment from the St. Paul Area Chamber, the Grand Avenue Business Association has decided to give it another go.

"We're just a diehard group of St. Paulites who really want to see this get pulled off," said Chris Jensen, association president and co-chair of Grand Old Day.

Co-chair Brian Wagner said he's confident organizers can raise the $100,000 they believe they need by early February to keep the momentum going. In 2019, after officials announced that budget shortfalls would force them to cancel the festival, fundraisers pulled in an additional $72,000 in just a few weeks.

"We have months this time," Wagner said. "I'd say we're optimistic, and we're hopeful [for a successful return]. The proof is in the pudding."

B Kyle, chamber president and CEO, said she's delighted that her organization's work to assist the business association will help resurrect one of the Twin Cities' preeminent community celebrations.

"We're so excited to partner with the Grand Avenue Business Association to bring back this iconic St. Paul tradition," Kyle said in an email Thursday. "The dedicated leaders of [the association] are working tirelessly to support Grand Avenue businesses and this vibrant corridor for all to enjoy. We're proud to be part of these efforts."

Jensen said he attended the first Grand Old Day as a toddler with his mother in 1973. He credited a committee of about a dozen enthusiasts for launching the effort to revive the festival this past fall. The group has met for months, sometimes several times a day, to rebuild Grand Old Day's infrastructure of volunteers, he said.

Not everyone is a Grand Avenue businessperson, Jensen and Wagner said. Some are just friends and neighbors who wanted to see the return of the energy Grand Old Day brought to the avenue each year, Wagner said. One friend is organizing the Pride stage, he said; another is coordinating the festival's arts corridor.

They anticipate a family friendly festival this year, with space set aside for kids, arts and crafts, and nonprofit organizations. They plan to bring back the morning race, they said. Beer gardens and live music will continue to play a part.

The co-chairs said they still hope for a couple white knight major sponsors to help push them past their fundraising goals. And they wouldn't mind a few more volunteers.

They also hope the city is willing to lower the cost of providing security for the festival. Wagner said that in 2019, Grand Old Day paid about $40,000 for off-duty police. This year, organizers estimated the cost could be about $60,000, but the city told them it will cost $125,000.

Both men said they are hopeful they'll close the gap, encouraged after several meetings with police officials and City Council Members Rebecca Noecker and Chris Tolbert. They have also been in contact with Mayor Melvin Carter's office.

Carter was not available for comment Thursday, a spokesman said.

The goal again, as it was 50 years ago, is to bring hundreds of thousands of people back to St. Paul and to Grand Avenue.

"We want people to come out and experience all the great mom-and-pop shops that are Grand Avenue and visit a lot of the businesses they didn't know existed," Wagner said.

Said Jensen: "It will be great to see people get back together again and have a good time."