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Como Cookout returns for 20th anniversary

The Como Cookout hits its 20th anniversary this weekend.
Image by Emily Urfer
The Van Cleve Park sign sits in Van Cleve Park on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021.

The Como neighborhood is celebrating the milestone of 20 years of its signature cookout, after first debuting in fall 2003.

Despite not taking place in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Como Cookout has been running steadily since 2021 and will return on Saturday in Van Cleve Park to feature food, activities and performances.

The Como Cookout took place on Saturday, Sep. 23 at Van Cleve Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The cookout has been a staple in the neighborhood for two decades, as its fun-filled atmosphere has become something the Como community cherishes each year, according to Kendre Turonie, program director for Off-Campus Living at the University of Minnesota.

Turonie began working two weeks after the first cookout in 2003 and said the Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA) partners with the University to use the event to strengthen the community.

“[The University] wanted to host an outdoor barbecue to get neighbors together and try to engage people to get students and neighbors talking,” Turonie said.

Although the organizations had low expectations for the cookout early on, roughly 100 people attended the first cookout, according to Turonie. The following year, the cookout grew to see roughly 300 people and added resource fairs featuring community organizations, live music and activities for kids.

Turonie said SECIA was thrilled to see the cookout grow so quickly in such a short time. Although the cookout has not changed drastically since its first party in the park 20 years ago, Turonie added the new additions continue to help the cookout grow.

This year, one of the live performances will be from the on-campus K-Pop dance team K-Move.

Romy Luong, K-Move’s president, performed at the Como Cookout last year. K-Move, who has previously performed at the cookout, said they were excited to perform once again this year.

“We performed on the summit in front of the stage and it was an intimate kind of performance, but it was really cool to get to interact with all of the people who live in Como and get to just show off K-pop to those who don’t always get to see it,” Luong said.

Apart from the performances, there will be several other events for the community to look forward to.

Lesley Moore, SECIA’s executive director, has been working for the past year after coming in with both SECIA members and volunteers to ensure the “backyard party” goes as smoothly as it has for over two decades.

“This is my first cookout with organizations and I’m looking forward to it,” Moore said.

Anyone is welcome at the fair, especially students, Moore said. Whether someone is in the park, performing or participating in the cookout’s resource fair, there is something for everyone at the event.

“People consider it a welcome-back event for students to welcome them back into the neighborhood,” Turonie said. “They are a vital part of the neighborhood.”

Como is a diverse neighborhood, according to Turonie, filled with families, senior citizens, upcoming professionals and students.

“We do have a great diverse community and we’d like to celebrate that and really showcase how fabulous it is in Minneapolis,” Turonie said.

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