It’s amazing what can be accomplished in about a week.
A good example is the 2014 A Taste of Minnesota festival, which was going to be held at Harriet Island in St. Paul but was forced elsewhere due to flooding. Organizers decided to hold the festival at the Carver County Fairgrounds in Waconia on Wednesday, June 25 and the festival opened a week later on Thursday, July 3.
Thousands attended the Taste, held July 3-6, to enjoy a variety of food, music, fireworks, and other family-friendly fun. According to Linda Maddox, general manager of A Taste of Minnesota, the best day in terms of attendance was July 4. Organizers estimate that approximately 20,000 people attended the festival that day.
“We’re not sure about the exact numbers for attendance. We’ll have a better idea later in the week,” said Maddox, who thought the festival went well, all things considered. “I feel it was a success. We were very happy to be there. We are just so thankful to the Carver County Fair Board for giving us a home when we were desperately in need. Waconia is a wonderful community. We truly appreciate all of the support.”
In terms of challenges caused by the change in venue, Maddox said the music acts were unaffected but sightlines for the firework displays, even for people at the festival at the fairgrounds, proved to be less than ideal. In addition, the festival lost a few food vendors after the change in location was announced.
“We gained Lola’s Lakehouse but in reality, if we had had one more month, we would have been hitting the streets in Waconia for more local
involvement,” said Maddox, who again had nothing but compliments for the host community. “The people in the area were so nice. I just loved the Fourth of July feel the Taste had in Waconia. Kids were running around playing while mom and dad were visiting with friends and listening to music. Everything looked so right. It was just what we were trying to accomplish with the festival.”
Maddox noted the festival organizers tried to be considerate, such as cleaning up streets near the fairgrounds after each night, and hoped the festival caused as little disruption as possible. Festival attendees appeared to be on their best behavior, as Chief Deputy Jason Kamerud of the Carver County Sheriff’s Office reported that he was unaware of any arrests or disorderly conducts that came about as a result of the festival.
“I was really pleased with how well it went,” Kamerud said. “The staff from the Taste did a great job planning and they were a pleasure to work with. It was a wonderful event.”
Mike Jensen, the general manager for the Carver County Fair, said the Carver County Fair Board was scheduled to meet on Thursday of this week to talk about the Taste but in his opinion, the festival went well, attracted decent crowds and didn’t damage the fairgrounds, which will host the Carver County Fair Aug. 6-10.
On behalf of the city of Waconia, Mayor Jim Nash thanked everyone who was involved in pulling off the festival, including the Taste staff, the Carver County Fair Board, city and county officials, the Sheriff’s Office, the Waconia Chamber of Commerce, Ridgeview Ambulance, and the community itself.
“When I addressed the crowd on both Thursday and Sunday nights, I pointed out how wrong the critics were that said ‘tiny little Waconia could not pull this off,’” Nash said. “I want to make sure that all community members know that the success of this event was the direct result of many people, and I want to take a minute to give all involved a huge thank you, because what our community pulled off was nothing short of spectacular.”
Maddox confirmed that A Taste of Minnesota will occur in 2015 but she didn’t make any commitments about its location at this time, whether it will be back in St. Paul, return to Waconia, or go to some other location.
“I just want to thank the community for a fantastic welcome,” Maddox said. “We appreciate it.”
Contact Todd Moen at [email protected]