Tag: 4th of july
The big deal in St. Paul is, of course, the Taste of Minnesota fireworks display. In years past, the Taste has popped off fireworks on each night of the festival, but this year they are only doing one display on the actual 4th, so it ought
to be a doozy. I for one, am not a big fan of standing in a massive crowd on a hot summer night, so I’ve whipped up a quick guide on the best “secret” places to watch fireworks in St. Paul — without having to brave the crowds.
1. Highland Reservoir: The man-made hills that lie beneath the big blue water towers near Snelling & Ford Parkway double as additional water storage, but neighborhood peeps know that sneaking up onto the top of the reservoir on the 4th of July is pretty awesome. A perfect view from the highest point of Highland Park, seeing the Taste of Minnesota fireworks is easy, breezy and unobstructed. You’ll surely run into more people from the neighborhood up there, but it’s a large, flat surface with plenty of spreading-out space.
3. Smith Avenue High Bridge: Avoid the fray of the Taste while still reveling in the camaraderie of your fellow
Americans on the High Bridge this 4th of July. One of the couple bridges that connects West St. Paul to Downtown, the High Bridge is a perfect place to leisurely watch the ‘works. Plenty of other neighborhood folks come out to watch from this classic landmark located on Smith Ave & River Road, so you’ll still get in your people watchin’ minus the claustrophobia.
2. The tops of parking ramps: This may require a little recon to find the best spot, as ramps change their policies frequently. You need to find a ramp with an open air roof. Most ramps are designed this way unless they are built into a building or underground. You’ll just need to check the ramp’s hours and make sure you can see the river from your vantage point. There are many ramps that dot the landscape of Downtown St. Paul along Kellogg. Once you get closer to the edge of Lowertown they become pretty cheap too. Surface lots further down along the river are probably a good bet too. $5 for a stampede-free fireworks experience? We can deal. (costs may vary the closer you are to the Taste).
With the additions of more locally-made food and homegrown music than ever, this year’s Taste of Minnesota is tastin’ a bit more Minnesotan. The annual outdoor concert, food festival and fireworks destination held on Harriet Island has new owners this year (as well as a newly instated entry fee of $10, but I’ll get to that shortly), and a greater focus on all things local.
For one, there’s locally-brewed beer from Grain Belt and August Schell, which totally beats previous year’s offerings (Budweiser, anyone?). There’s also some welcome local additions to the food offerings: Popular Middle Eastern deli Holy Land, St. Paul sandwich shop Blink Bonnie, mobile food shack Walleye Wagon, family-owned Steffens Brothers Meat Market, and Minneapolis-based chain Buffalo Wild Wings (though non-local Funnel Cake Factory, Donut Man Joe’s and Dog House will return to serve up their fair-style foods).
Also stronger than ever are the music offerings. 2009’s lineup just might boast the biggest-name acts to ever perform at the Taste, including headliners Elvis Costello (Saturday), Bret Michaels (Sunday), Judas Priest and Whitesnake (Friday). Of course, you can’t beat a free* outdoor show by living legend Elvis Costello – but I have to admit to having a morbid curiosity to see what kind of spectacle Bret Michaels (of Poison and “Rock of Love” fame) will put on.
For the truly curious, you can win a chance to meet the man himself via an online contest.
But the local acts are just as worth checking out. Though there are the usual State Fair/Taste of Minnesota suspects (The Big Wu, Martin Zellar, Uncle Chunk), be sure to check out local rock ‘n roll supergroup The 757s (Friday, 12:30 p.m., Main Stage), country-rock band Hitchville (Sunday, 2 p.m., August Schell Stage), soul and blues acts Jason Shannon (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., Main Stage), rockin’ reggae band Ipso Facto (Saturday, 2 p.m., August Schell Stage), which has toured with the likes of UB40 and Tracy Chapman, and sweet three-piece sibling act Lynhurst (Friday, 12 p.m., August Schell Stage). Check out the Full Schedule for more.
A lot of people are grumpy about the fact that the Taste isn’t “free” this year, but there is an upside: The ticket price gets you a $10 coupon for food and drink. Aside from the fact that you’re checking out some bands that usually charge top dollar for their shows and catching some of the best 4th of July fireworks in the state (closing out the night each evening at 10 p.m.), I’d call that a pretty good deal.
(Noon-10:40 p.m. Thu.-Sun. Harriet Island, tasteofmn.com)