DULUTH — Duluth's annual Homegrown Music Festival kicked off Sunday at Hoops Brewing with something new: a Founder's Reception instead of the traditional Mayor's Reception.

Festival founder Scott Lunt told the crowd he'd be its "mayor for the evening" before launching into several quips about Kathy Cargill, who has riled the city and new Mayor Roger Reinert with multiple Park Point property purchases and demolitions.

It's been renamed the "Kathy Cargill Homegrown Music Festival," and all the venues west of Lake Avenue would be torn down or turned into pickleball courts, he joked.

But where was Reinert?

The Duluth mayor has offered an official Homegrown proclamation honoring the popular festival for roughly two decades, with mayors Gary Doty, Herb Bergson, Don Ness and Emily Larson all participating with a written proclamation or in person. The kickoff has been held at Hoops since 2018, where a special beer is created for the festival.

Festival co-director Cory Jezierski said Reinert had been asked.

"We were told that the mayor would not do it," Jezierski said, but he offered to send a City Councilor in his place.

Homegrown organizers declined, opting to ask Lunt instead. Reinert later said he'd consider it if organizers changed the location, Jezierski said, "and that's not something we were interested in doing."

Reinert was unavailable for comment Monday. Superior Mayor Jim Paine will offer his mayoral proclamation for the eight-day festival Thursday at Earth Rider Brewery.

Hoops was packed for the late afternoon kickoff, the crowd a mix of storied scenesters and their children and up and coming musicians and fans. Both Ness and Larson attended.

The spring event started as Lunt's 30th birthday party in 1999, with a handful of bands playing at Lafayette Square on Park Point. Lunt continued to organize the festival for years after that, but eventually dished it into the hands of a nonprofit committee, where it remains.

This year, 160 bands will play at venues in Duluth and Superior, with the action ramping up on Friday and Saturday.

"Music is magic," said Lunt, whose alt-country band Father Hennepin plays Wednesday at the West Theatre. "Thank you for keeping this fest alive; Thanks for keeping it weird."

Then punk-polka band Winzige Hozen, self-described as "have you ever wondered what would happen if Gogol Bordello had a date with Frankie Yankovic in a beer," ripped into a classic: "In Heaven There is No Beer."

The festival shifts to Lincoln Park today, with shows at the neighborhood's bars and cideries, Dovetail Café and beyond.