Is Minnesota Experiencing Festival Fatigue?

Is Minnesota Experiencing Festival Fatigue?

Despite a glut, local organizers say the more the merrier.

The State Fair. The Aquatennial. An art fest for practically every neighborhood or weekend. Explore Minnesota says there are 1,400 events statewide this summer alone. So why isn’t the market saturated?

First, many locals are inveterate festival-goers, attending a different event every weekend, says Gulgun Kayim, city of Minneapolis director of arts, culture, and the creative economy. Both Kayim and Sarah Peters, co-director of Northern Spark, an annual Twin Cities summer art festival, credit the packed calendar to the limitations imposed by Minnesota’s long and often harsh winters.

Ironically, when it comes to attendance, festival organizers say the weather matters far more than a competing event or events. “If it’s sunny, everyone wants to be outside. If it’s rainy, people just don’t want to be out,” says Bruce Paquette, head of the Two Trains Music and Arts Festival in Northeast Minneapolis, which debuted in 2017. Paquette says he chose late August—the same time as the State Fair—for Two Trains because he thought that might offer the best weather, but the inaugural event was marred by rain.

Aquatennial organizers, by contrast, say the festival’s historic scheduling is specifically to avoid Fair time and other long-established events.

“Summertime ‘event fatigue’ sets in,” says Peters. “[There’s] that fear of fatigue . . . or everybody’s going on vacation or to the State Fair or just wanting to sit on their porch in August.”

Even when date clashes are unavoidable, festival organizers say they don’t mind. Most consider their events distinctive, with complementary audiences, or think people attend several events per weekend, so the spirit remains more collaborative than competitive.

Minnesota festival claims to fame (some of many):

Minnesota Fringe Festival:
Largest U.S. festival with a non-curated lineup

Minnesota State Fair:
Second-largest in the U.S.

Twin Cities festival scene:
Fourth-best city in the U.S. for festivals, Travel and Leisure, 2015