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Stone Arch Bridge Festival celebrates 30th birthday

Visitors flocked to this year’s festival despite the partial closure of the celebration’s iconic namesake bridge.
Image by Summer Rabold
The annual pedestrian festival was held June 15 and 16.

The annual Stone Arch Bridge Festival celebrated its 30th anniversary this Saturday and Sunday along a mile-long stretch of West River Parkway in downtown Minneapolis, spanning from Gold Medal Park to 4th Avenue. 

With a rainy opening day, umbrella-toting visitors filled the festival grounds, finding refuge from the rain under the cover of the vendors’ tents. When the weather was more agreeable on Sunday, more visitors spilled out onto the parkway, enjoying the sunny weather and scenic surroundings. 

Although Stone Arch Bridge is partially closed for construction until 2025, the festival was largely unaffected by its closure. In fact, the festival has never been held on the bridge itself and has been hosted on the western bank of the Mississippi River for years, according to Sara Collins, the festival director.

While the festival has much to offer, the namesake bridge remains one of the most popular attractions, Collins said. Throughout the weekend, visitors were seen walking out onto the scenic bridge before turning back to enjoy the rest of the festival’s offerings.

In total, there were 255 artists, 30 musicians, 39 culinary arts vendors and 25 food vendors at the festival. Each artist, musician and food vendor was chosen from a large pool of applicants by festival organizers.

“We try to have such a diverse offering and try to invite such a diverse attendance,” Collins said. “To see it come together is really, really exciting.”

This year’s festival included a great variety of different artists, including jewelers, potters, printmakers, photographers, woodworkers and sculptors, among others. Each artisan had a tent where pedestrians could browse their work and meet the artists.

Collins said although the artisans are the “bread and butter” of the festival, the live performers made the festival special. She added her favorite part of the festival is the intersection of the performers, artisans and community. 

“We’re inviting them to experience all of this art, but then they also get to participate in some of these live performances,” Collins said.

Two stages hosted live music, near Stone Arch Bridge and Hennepin Avenue. Another stage hosted live dance performances. 

Pat Dougherty, the festival’s stage manager and talent organizer, said they aimed to showcase a variety of artists from the community on stage. Rock bands, hip-hop groups, singer-songwriters and country acts performed at the festival, including University of Minnesota alumnus Colin Bracewell, who closed the lineup on Saturday. 

“The Twin Cities just has one of those scenes where every genre has a thriving little pocket so I like to try to get as much from those pockets as possible,” Dougherty said.

Underneath the Hennepin Avenue Bridge was a culinary market, featuring local vendors selling specialty food products like hot sauces and cocktail kits. 

According to Stephanie Hansen, the culinary arts director of the festival, many of the vendors were returning favorites from previous editions of the event.

“For many of the vendors, that’s their best market in terms of sales,” she said.

This year’s festival also featured a plethora of food vendors, interspersed in groups between the artists’ tents throughout the festival. Right next to Water Works Park was the Native American food truck Tatanka Truck, which served a delicious wild rice bowl with elk taco meat on Sunday.

Hansen mentioned Thai Thai Street Food, Island Noodles and Amish Annie Donuts as other festival favorites. 

The festival also held a car show near 4th Avenue that featured all kinds of antique vehicles and a vintage clothing market near the Guthrie Theater. 

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  • Downtown Resident
    Jun 23, 2024 at 4:31 pm

    Thankfully they moved it back this year. Last year they tried to hold it on Nicollet DIRECTLY behind several residential buildings. The disregard toward those of us who live here was disgusting. My walls were shaking from the amplifiers and I was awoken before 7 a.m. both days while they did “sound checks.” By Monday I had a severe headache and had to call off work. Many of us in my building discussed in the common areas how exhausted and annoyed we were. That’s not even to mention the way they attempted to close off a private alley that belongs to two buildings and not to the city, requiring my management to contact the police to intervene so that tenants could get in and out reasonably. It was so rude and entitled and never should have happened.