Tag: Harriet Island
Harriet Island turns into the Emerald Isle for a weekend as the annual Irish Fair of Minnesota returns. Don some green apparel and head to the banks of the Mighty Mississippi for a three-day blow out celebrating Irish Heritage – and trust us – the Irish definitely know how to party!
A family-friendly event that draws heavily on music, dance and interactive activities for all ages, Irish Fair is a great place to introduce your little ones (or yourself) to the cultural history of Ireland, and St. Paul’s close connection to it. Over 100,000 people attended Irish Fair last year to enjoy fantastic music, performance, food, and so much more. And this year the legacy continues with a mighty fine schedule of events including music from Great Big Sea, Young Dubliners, Lunasa, Tommy Sands, The High Kings and Bua plus a number of local and regional performers including over 80 individuals or groups with more than 250 dancers and 140 musicians presenting 300 shows, seminars or workshops throughout the weekend. Traditional Dance performances happen pretty much all day every day on the dance stage and are capped off each night with a céili (that’s Irish for a huge dance party!).
Also on hand will be a number of educational activities that will offer you a chance to learn about traditional musical instruments, history, legends, movies, literature and more. Inside the Harriet Island pavilion, you’ll be invited to peruse a number of craft vendors, check out the Irish Fair Photo Contest entries, see a replica poitín still and enjoy treats at Tussie’s Tea & Sweets tea room. Outside the pavilion, you can trace your genealogy, enter the Baking Contest, learn some Irish words and get info on many of the active Irish non-profits in Minnesota from community organizations on site. Over 60 art vendors and exhibitors dot the landscape of Irish Fair as well, a perfect opportunity to pluck up hand-crafted, culturally interesting gifts for friends and family. Most vendors are located in the East or West Marketplace tents. A few are spread out around the grounds. Artisans have their own tent between the East and West tents.
And don’t forget the kids! There’s plenty of kid-friendly activities to be enjoyed including a hand-crafted mini-golf course, craft areas where kid’s can learn about Irish heritage, face painting, character and balloon artists and more. There’s even an Irish Indeed Children’s Area Stage where whimsical tales will be spun amid song, dance and puppetry. Kids (and adults) will also delight in watching O’Reilly’s Border Collies herd sheep several times a day – sheep will actually be let loose in the crowd only to be wrangled easily back by Chuck O’Reilly and his dogs.
And then of course there’s the food. No cultural experience would be complete without getting to sample some delicious ethnic fare, right? Six local Irish pubs, three private vendors and three Irish organizations provide Irish specialties to tempt your tastebuds. And while you’re at it, you might as well have a pint or two. And if you’re feeling especially saucy, Jameson Irish Whiskey even has its own tent. “Hospitality Tickets” are available for those planning to eat and drink their weight for $100 a day or $250 for the weekend. Otherwise, food and beverage tickets will be available on an individual basis.
Irish Fair happens Friday August 13-15 and is free and open to the public. For more info and specific schedules of events visit www.irishfair.com.
Last year, the party startin’ peeps at Red Bull threw a massive boat party in St. Paul on the Mississippi with some of the hottest DJ names in town (and of course, all the Red Bull vodkas you could slam). Though we don’t get any yacht rocking this year, we do get in on the Red Bull Flugtag craze for the first time since its 1992 debut in Austria.
By this point you may be asking, “What the heck is Flugtag?” Apparently “flugtag” is German for “airshow” or “flying day,” but is better known as Red Bull’s annual event in which competitors fly wacky, homemade flying machines off a 30-foot deck into a body of water – in this case, launching from Harriet Island on the banks of the Mississippi River. The international event are judged on three categories – distance, creativity, and showmanship. With that in mind, expect more entertainment value than actual skill in the crafts, but you never know – a new world record could be set. (11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat. Free. Harriet Island, 200 Dr. Justus Ohage Blvd., St. Paul. www.redbullflugtagusa.com)
To gear up for Saturday’s big event, Red Bull is also hosting a couple of dance parties in the Capital City. That’s right – dance parties in St. Paul! On Friday night, DJs Millions Billions and Tendercakes are hopping aboard the Red Bull Scenic Cruiser and taking their monthly Let’s Dance night to St. Peazy for a special Flugtag Edition at Half Time Rec. The Red Bull-sponsored night features drink specials (Red Bull vodkas, anyone?) and “surprises.” (10 p.m. Free. 21-plus. 1013 Front Ave., St. Paul. 651-488-8245.)
Then post-Flugtag, Millions Billions is joined by DJ Jonathan Ackerman on Saturday night for the official Flugtag afterparty at Alary’s. (10 p.m. Free. 21-plus. 139 E. 7th St., St. Paul. 651-224-7717.)
With all this coolness happening, hipsters are going to get schooled in St. Paul this weekend!
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).
This weekend, local favorites Lookbook play music and movies in Mears Park, perfectly paired with ’80s favorite Sixteen Candles (which is turning into an accidental tribute – news just came out that director John Hughes has died today of a heart attack). Also, the Irish Fair kicks off on Harriet Island, and living legends Alejandro Escovedo and the supergroup members of Chickenfoot hit St. Paul.
Music in Mears: Lynhurst, Lookbook + “Sixteen Candles”
On the surface, Lynhurst and Lookbook would seem to have a lot in common. They’re both local bands fronted by cute boy-girl counterparts, and both of their names start with L and have eight letters. But in reality, the two bands couldn’t be more different. While sibling trio Lynhurst sport a substantial musical pedigree – they recently recorded their debut release Field Day with Cold War Kids’ producer in L.A. and their gleaming myspace page boasts of 4,500 friends – they are practically unheard of in Minneapolis. (The fact that their dad is a big-name music lawyer Ken Abdo, whose clients include Jonny Lang and Garrison Keillor, sheds some light on things.)
Meanwhile, Lookbook (which has only 900 myspace friends) is a big name locally, having garnered the coveted “Best New Band” title from City Pages in 2008. Its sound is substantially more unique than that of Lynhurst, whose paint-by-numbers pop rock sounds overly produced and saccharine compared to Lookbook’s dynamic, electronic-infused layers and coolly sexy vocals. Taking in the two bands back-to-back should provide an interesting juxtaposition of two very different sides of the spectrum of local music.
Besides all the great music happening at Taste of Minnesota (check out my preview of the event here), St. Paul’s got a ton of other great shows lined up this weekend. Here’s a sampling of the best:
THURSDAY, JULY 2
Detroit Don King Band at Como Lakeside Pavilion
As part of St. Paul’s Music in the Parks series at the gorgeous Como Lakeside Pavilion, local bluesman (via Detroit, of course) Detroit Don King and his Blues Band play all the blues and R&B standards – think BB King, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters. (7 p.m. Free. 1360 N. Lexington Pkwy., St. Paul.)
FRIDAY, JULY 3
Toots at the Maytals at Minnesota Zoo
Reggae legend Toots Hibbert and his band The Maytals have been around since the ‘60s, and not only did they count Bob Marley as a contemporary, they’re credited for naming the genre of reggae. Nearly 50 years later, they’re still kicking out the grooves with their trademark mix of reggae, soul and gospel and recent collaborations with The Roots, Ben Harper, Bonnie Raitt and Eric Clapton have kept their sound fresh. Wain McFarlane opens. (7:30 p.m. $43. 13000 Zoo Blvd. 952-431-9200.)
Also Friday: A local underground punk/indie showcase featuring Private Dancer, The Blind Shake and Birthday Suits at the Turf Club; Washington, D.C. reggae act Lucky Dub at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium; and ‘80s New Wave band The Romantics (famous for “What I Like About You” and “Talking in Your Sleep”) at Taste of Minnesota.
SATURDAY, JULY 4
Kate Voegele at Taste of Minnesota
Everyone knows Elvis Costello is the really hot ticket at the Taste, but Cleveland folk singer Kate Voegele is all-but-guaranteed to be the sleeper hit of the night. The 22-year-old just released her sophomore album A Fine Mess (which already hit the Top 10 on Billboard) and was featured on CW show “One Tree Hill” playing her single “99 Times.” (6:30 p.m. $10. Harriet Island, St. Paul. tasteofmn.com)
Also Saturday: Legendary rocker Elvis Costello at Taste of Minnesota; local acoustic/blues act Tap City at Station 4; and oldies act The Vogues (best-known for performing the “The Drew Carey Show” theme song “Five O’Clock World”) at Taste of Minnesota.
SUNDAY, JULY 5
No Doubt at Xcel Energy Center
After Gwen Stefani’s solo career took off – including not only a music career but a clothing, fragrance, and shoe line – most assumed No Doubt were kaput. But they’re back with a new album that harkens back to the ska sound they made popular in the late-‘90s. Whether you’re a fan of Gwen solo or the band, she’s always the entertainer, and is sure to have some killer outfits. Paramore and Bedouin Soundclash open. (7:30 p.m. $39.50-80. 199 W. Kellogg Blvd. 651-265-4800.)
Also Sunday: Hitchville, a country/rock fusion band featuring Minnesota Music Award-winner Heidi Owens, at Taste of Minnesota; and Duluth country-blues musician Charlie Parr at Turf Club.
MONDAY, JULY 6
Pterodactyl at Turf Club
Pterodactyl’s blistering beats, falsetto voices, and chiming guitars made them one to watch after their debut album “Bluebird” was released. Hot off a strong sophomore release “Worldwild” in June, the band’s sound goes everywhere from noisy punk to reserved psychedelic mood music. Also playing: Local band Gay Beast and Chicago’s Mayor Daley. (9 p.m. $6. 1601 University Av. W., St. Paul. 651-647-0486.)
Also Monday: Soap Boxing Poetry Slam: IWPS Showdown Slam at Artists’ Quarter.
TUESDAY, JULY 7
9 Nights of Music: Café Accordion Orchestra at Minnesota History Center
Get out your beret and pack a beatnik picnic for this week’s edition of the Minnesota History Center’s summer music series 9 Nights of Music. Local band Café Accordion Orchestra perform a mix of French Musette, vintage swing, Latin and European folk music. Fun fact: It’s fronted by frequent Prairie Home Companion accordionist Dan Newton. (6:30 p.m. Free. 345 Kellogg Blvd. W., St. Paul. 651-259-3000.)
WEDNESDAY, JULY 8
VNV Nation at Station 4
London-based electronic music band VNV Nation have quite the cult following – they’ve been around since the mid-‘90s and helped establish the emerging electronic-goth genre. Their sound combines elements of industrial music, trance, synthpop and electronic body music; fans of modern-day electronic-infused acts like Interpol and Ladytron better get schooled and check them out. War Tapes and Ayria open. (6 p.m. $20-23. 201 E. 4th St., St. Paul. 651-298-0173.)
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)
The sun isn’t supposed to reappear for a few more days (at least, that’s what Weather.com tells me), but you can start planning now for the better hiking and biking weather that’s sure to come.
One of the best places to start is Harriet Island, just across the Mississippi from downtown. One of the first things you will notice about Harriet Island is that it is not an island. The river channel that separated the island from the mainland was filled in the 1950’s, so now it is an island in name only. But that does not change the fact that it is one of the most charming places in the city to take a picnic and drink in some seriously dramatic views of downtown.
You can also launch a great hike or bike ride from here. Park in the south parking lot (accessible by taking a right on Plato Boulevard after crossing the Wabasha Street bridge from downtown) and head south on the paved trail adjacent to Dr. Justis Ohage Blvd. The first few hundred yards is a bit industrial, but soon you plunge into the woods alongside the river and forget that you are anywhere near the city.
For 2.8 miles the paved trail meanders next to the river and through picturesque forest. You will even get glimpses of Pickerel Lake and the occasional reminder (such as the appearance of a mile-long freight train crossing the railroad swing bridge or a huge barge passing by) that you are sharing space with two thriving transportation corridors.
The trail is flat until you reach the Pool and Yacht Club. There it becomes the Big Rivers Regional Trail* and begins a dramatic ascent up the bluff. My husband and I started our latest hike there (with the baby in tow) to take advantage of the serious cardio workout and the equally serious views.
The trail is nestled between limestone cliffs and the river – part of an old rail corridor that is still active (although the active part is thankfully 50 feet down the bluff). As you climb, the view of the river becomes more breathtaking until you reach the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. This spot is considered sacred by many people native to Minnesota and it is easy to see why. The milky brown of the Minnesota can be seen blending into the deeper green of the Mississippi. It is worth the trip just to see two big rivers becoming one.
* It is important to note that the Big Rivers Regional Trail is closed weekdays until 5:30 p.m. through July due to construction. The trail is open after 5:30 and on weekends.
I live in St. Paul. I work in St. Paul. I shop in St. Paul and I play in St. Paul. For me, there is no better vacation than to stay right here in the capital city and enjoy so many wonderful things just steps or a bike ride from my front door.
This past Memorial Day weekend, my family stayed close to home and enjoyed some wonderful time outside. If your family loves to bike ride, I have a great place you must go to on the next sunny day. The bike path along the Mississippi River from Harriet Island toward Mendota Heights is a wonderful getaway. It is pretty level path, which is great for the young ones. At points along the path, there is a wonderful canopy of trees that almost makes you feel like you are on the North Shore of Minnesota.
If you have some budding archaeologists in your family, I highly recommend a stop at Lilydale Park. You can wind your way along the big hill and take part in some great fossil hunting. My 8-year old son went on a field trip with his third grade class to this area and now we love going there as a family. You play the role of an explorer and you sift through rocks looking for the ones that qualify as fossils. You may have to ask a friendly third grader to help you identify those clues! If you plan on keeping the fossils, be sure to apply for a permit.
I am all about family adventures and St. Paul has many more places to go with your kids. If you are looking for a nice place to have a great meal, be sure to check out The Highland Grill at Ford Parkway and Cleveland Avenue. While you wait for your food, the waitress hands your children a tub of small toys to keep them occupied. When the food arrives, you realize why you came. They have wonderful gourmet meals that the kids will also enjoy. I think my husband and I lived on the Highland Grill food when our son was a baby. They got to know us pretty well!
We also really like going to a few other kid-friendly places on Grand Avenue. D’Amico and Sons feeds kids for free on Sunday nights. They also make sure the grown-ups glass of wine is always refilled for free. That is a nice bonus when you are going out with the family.
The beauty of the visit for us is that it is a short walk home after that. We also enjoy Billy’s on Grand. My son is a sports nut so we all enjoy watching the big game on the big screen while we wait for our burgers. If you don’t eat meat, they have a very nice veggie burger with any toppings. Bonfire on Grand provides a nice loud place so your kids won’t feel to intimidated to just be themselves. They have a great deal where kids make their own pizzas and watch them go into the woodfire oven. They also make their own sundaes for dessert. You can bet your young chefs will love being able to eat what they made.
If you are looking for a good spot to grab breakfast, Bread and Chocolate has the best Florentine
croissants. Get there early because they sell out fast. My kids love the cinnamon rolls. It’s a great way to kick back on a Sunday morning.I am “the” person to talk with about St. Paul. I often wish I would’ve grown up here. It is a big city with a small town feel and you really get the best of both worlds. I am just glad my children can call themselves St. Paul natives. Why would they want to leave when we have it all here?
- Vineeta Sawkar is an anchor on the Emmy-winning 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS mornings from 5-7 and Midday at 11a. Vineeta is a St. Paul resident and a die-hard Minnesota Wild fan (holding season tickets since the very first season in 2000)