Grand Old Day, St. Paul’s hugely popular summer kickoff held on the first Sunday of June, will expand next year to cover the entire weekend.
Jon Perrone, executive director of the Grand Avenue Business Association, said the 2016 festival will begin on Saturday with a Crazy Days-style event that features retailers and restaurants plying their goods and services on the sidewalks.
The business association also will work with three local district councils to throw a spotlight on living in the surrounding Summit Hill, Summit-University and Macalester-Groveland neighborhoods, he said.
The Saturday event won’t be the same as Sunday’s in several respects. For one thing, Grand Avenue will remain open to traffic on Saturday, unlike Sunday, when it’s closed to all but pedestrians for most of its length.
And it’s not clear how much music and entertainment will be provided Saturday. Perrone said that some bars and restaurants may offer music and that beer gardens may be set up, much as they are on Sunday, but those details haven’t been finalized.
“With the record crowds this year, we wanted to focus more on our member businesses and give them more of an opportunity to participate,” he said.
Grand Old Day was started by the business group in the late 1970s and within a few years became one of Minnesota’s largest single-day events.
This year’s festival — with its parade, food vendors, family activities, live music and people watching — drew a record crowd of 300,000, Perrone said. Yet it’s easy to overlook the avenue’s merchants, about half of whom close for the day, while others participate in the parade or set up a booth outside, he said.
Other changes are afoot for next year. The length of the street closed to motor vehicles will be extended a quarter-mile and will now stretch from Dale to Prior avenues. And an arts district will be set up to feature the work of local artists, Perrone said.