By Amy Rea

Finally, summer appears to have arrived, and one of the most telling signs is the arrival of St. Paul’s Grand Old Day on Sunday (6/5), a celebration of the many delights of Grand Avenue that also serves as a community fundraiser to help maintain the Avenue’s attractiveness and sponsor other events.

It’s an action-packed day, kicking off with an 8K inline skate and run, followed by ¼- and ½-mile youth runs and a 5K walk/jog. Don’t feel like being that active? No problem. Check out the art fair, the children’s parade and the Grand Parade, the teen battle of the bands, numerous stages with live music, a festival garden — you get the picture. There’s plenty to see, listen to and enjoy. And, at least at the time of this writing, the forecast looks promising.

grod 2 Wander Minnesota: Grand Indeed

(credit: Grand Avenue Business Association)

How did Grand Old Day become such a beloved event? I had to chance to interview Jaimee Lucke Hendrikson, Program Director of the Grand Avenue Business Association, and here’s what I learned about the festival.

When and why did Grand Old Day start?

This year will be the 38th Grand Old Day! The first Grand Old Day was held in 1974 as a means to promote the Avenue and the neighborhood that was in need of rehabilitation due to many years of neglect. Records show that the first year had an attendance of nearly 30,000 attendees. Grand Old Day now draws more than 250,000 festival-goers.

250,000 people from across the state — that’s huge! How difficult is it to manage the logistics for that size of crowd?

Grand Old Day comes together through collaboration with many businesses and organizations. Grand Old Day would not be possible without the partnership of Avenue businesses, neighborhood organizations, police, city staff, sponsors, non-profit groups, over 300 volunteers, community organizations, over 150 vendors. Planning takes place year-round with the most intensive work in the six months leading up to the event.

Why do people come from far away? I understand coming from around the metro area, since it’s an easy day trip. What draws people from outstate? And how far away do visitors hail from?

It’s the largest one-day festival in the Midwest! According to a demographic study completed in 2006, 4 percent of attendees visit from over 100 miles away.

Is there a sense that this is a tradition with some visitors, who may come back year after year?

Absolutely! According to our most recent demographic study, 73 percent had attended before, and the average attendee had been to Grand Old Day 8 times.

So this Sunday, join the crowds and be part of tradition!

What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.


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