Only Minnesotans could hope for steady gusts of wind in January, if just for one day.
More than 3,000 people are expected to gather Saturday on frozen Lake Harriet in Minneapolis for the annual Winter Kite Festival. From noon to 4 p.m., kites of all colors, sizes, themes and shapes will fly over the north end of the lake. There also will be ice fishing, snowshoeing, music and fat-tire bikes to try in the snow along with a few indoor activities.
While January is Minnesota’s chilliest month, the festival has grown in popularity since its start as a neighborhood event 18 years ago. It now draws kite lovers from across the metro area, according to Tom Godfrey, events manager for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
“When people outside the area hear about it, they’re like ‘Wait, you fly kites on a lake in the winter?’ ” said Godfrey. “It makes people curious to come out.”
Last year’s festival got a boost from the annual Art Shanty Projects, a mini-village of artist-created ice fishing houses that took up residence on Lake Harriet after several winters on suburban lakes, drawing 40,000 visitors over four weekends.
While it’s on hiatus after losing out on a major State Arts Board grant, Art Shanty will come out from hibernation Saturday with a single new shanty, titled “Ghosts of Art Shanty’s Future.” Ice ghosts will share haunting songs, scary stories and enchanted puppetry created and operated by volunteer artists. There will be performances on and off the ice by other artists, too, including last year’s Tomb of the Unknown Minnow.
For those looking to hang out longer, Art Shanty will host a twilight after-party in a heated tent with bingo, raffles and s’mores from 4 to 7 p.m. The organization, which is seeking donations to help fund future projects, has extra reason to party: It announced Wednesday that it received an anonymous grant to bring back the Art Shanty Project in 2020 and 2021, an unspecified donation that “will cover more than 50 percent of the cost of on-ice events in the coming two years and will help Art Shanty Projects move toward becoming a self-sustaining organization.”
People who want to fly kites on Saturday can bring their own, or buy a cheap one at Lake Harriet. Godfrey urges people to dress warmly because the heated area is minimal, though there will be some outdoor fire pits around the area. There will be no shuttle to the festival, but there is a free parking lot and on-street parking throughout the neighborhood.
“We just want to bring people together to enjoy the outdoors, even in the cold winter months on the beautiful Lake Harriet,” said Godfrey.
Alex Smith is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.