New events as Rochesterfest gets underway

AsRochesterfestkicks off, more than 10 new events begin squeezing into an already packed schedule. A hangar dance, wagon rides, an obstacle course 5k and more will join ...

Words Players Theatre
The Words Players Theatre Group opened this year's Rochesterfest with a Shakespeare in the Park performance.

As  Rochesterfest kicks off today, more than 10 new events begin squeezing into an already packed schedule.

A hangar dance, wagon rides, an obstacle course 5k and more will join the more than 80 events going on from June 20-29. And this year, the beer stand will also offer wine.

"If you live in Rochester and the surrounding communities there's going to be something we have that interests you," said Carole Brown, executive director of the Rochesterfest nonprofit. "We're very family oriented, but we have a lot of different events."

Some of the events added to the roster are completely new, whereas others have happened before, just not in tandem with Rochesterfest.

Juneteenth celebrations, which mark the official end of slavery in the U.S., have been going on for eight years in Rochester, but this year for the first time the group will partner with the Rochester Art Center .


"Rochesterfest, in all of its programs, it celebrates kids, it celebrates activities, sports, and it seemed a perfect match to celebrate African American history," said Shannon Fitzgerald, executive director of the Rochester Art Center.

The celebration Saturday will include music from gospel choirs to R&B, spoken word, dance and an ongoing program about the history and significance of Juneteenth. The partnership and celebration coincides with and partially grew from the center's main exhibit of artist Lamar Peterson's work, which examines aspects of African American life.

"I think it's kind of been a natural segue from some of the diversity work we're doing with the Diversity Council particularly," Fitzgerald said.

Another event new to Rochesterfest is the Southeast Minnesota Youth Orchestra's live accompaniment of two silent films. This is the group's third year of the event after a student initially came up with the idea, but the last couple years have been in February — indoors.

This year, the orchestra will take to Peace Plaza and must adjust to playing outside and in a different venue.

"It's kind of a unique space, it's not set up for a show of this type," said executive director Katie Livingood. "We're trying to address all of those issues before the day actually gets here."

The orchestra's artistic director approached the Rochester Downtown Alliance about joining their outdoor concert series, and they suggested adding to the lineup during Rochesterfest.

"All of those activities that are going on downtown all throughout the summer have been expanding hugely over the last few years," Livingood said, "and we're hoping to be a part of that."


Also downtown, Rochester sports night will offer a chance to meet representatives from area sports teams and try out different sports.

Beyond downtown

Not all of the new events are downtown, with some stretching to the edges of the city. Out at the General Aviation airport, a hangar will clear out Saturday for a 1940s-style hangar dance put on by veterans groups. Big band music and dancing will fill the hangar instead of planes, with prizes late in the night for the best 1940s attire.

The next Saturday and a few miles away, inflatable obstacles will pop up on stretches of trail at the Gamehaven Scout Reservation for the Insane Inflatable 5k .

"It's an adventure race meets adult-sized bouncy castles," said camp manager Dusty Olson. The event is being put on by Townsquare Media and is the fifth stop on the Insane Inflatable 15-stop tour.

Olson said the last four have been open fields or sports complexes, so runners are able to see all the obstacles before they get to them. At Gamehaven, the run will wind through trails and woods.

"They'll pop out of the woods and get to an obstacle then be back in the woods," Olson said.

He said scouts and camp volunteers will help set up and run things throughout the day but they are still in need of volunteers.


About 1,300 runners have already signed up, and Olson said they're hoping to near 2,000. The run isn't timed, and waves will be released every half hour onto the course.

"It looks like it's just going to be a fun time," he said.

Other new events throughout the week include the YMCA's 50th anniversary picnic , a bluegrass band performance downtown, an additional water ski performance at Foster Arend Park and a Superhero Scramble relay at the Minnesota Children's Museum .

"It's certainly grown," Brown said of her 22 years with Rochesterfest. "The fest has grown quite a bit with the adding of new events that people come to us with, which we think is great because it adds to the variety of what we can offer."

Shakespeare in the Park
The Words Players Theatre Group performing Shakespeare in the Park.

What To Read Next
Get Local