Rochesterfest organizers sum up community's response

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Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede walks around the balloon of Larry Konash before launching at Badger Ridge Park Saturday morning June 27, 2015 for The Mayor's Cup Hot Air Balloon Race as part of Rochesterfest 2015 Rochester, Minn. This race was the first in three years as weather postponed races previous years.

This year's Rochesterfest enjoyed good weather, and more and more people came to its new venue at Soldiers Field Park as the week went on.

Thousands of visitors and residents attended the weeklong summer festival that ended Sunday. Previously, it was held at Civic Center Drive downtown, but construction caused it to be moved.

Thirty vendors set up shop in the park. Some welcomed the change of scenery and atmosphere, although others complained it was farther from downtown. Parking was limited, but two trolleys provided free transportation from downtown.

"Before, it was hot and cramped in the street," said Jeremy Solen, owner of The Cheese Shack. "It was nice that families came out and sat down in the grass while enjoying their food. Kids could run in the grass instead of the streets. That definitely helped. Everybody came down and stayed longer."

For Solen, his business' most popular item during Rochesterfest was a bucket of cheese curds — weighing just more than 2 pounds. He estimated that he sold about 1,500 pounds by the end of the week, which he considers a big success, Solen said.


"It's just a guess, but it's pretty close," he said of the total poundage. "I'd like Rochesterfest to stay there rather than going back to it's original location. I sure do plan on returning next year."

This was also the first year the Rochester Trolley and Tour Co. was used for the event. While two trolleys took people back and forth from downtown to the park every 10 minutes from morning until later in the afternoon, the number of riders increased throughout the week and entered into the thousands, said Dan Butterfass, founder and owner of the company.

"The rides added a flair and was a whole other event unto itself," Butterfass said. "With kids and families riding the trolleys, it's not only getting from downtown to the event, lots of families riding trolleys were taking it because it was fun. ... You can have an open air trolley ride."

Rochesterfest officials weren't available for comment this morning.

As more people attended the festival, Butterfass said he hopes Rochesterfest found a new permanent home at the park.

"After 20 plus years, I think the annual event needs an overhaul from time to time, and this was a wonderful one," he said. "The city of Rochester was the backdrop, and Soldiers Field Park is one of the most underutilized public green spaces we have. ... It's great to see it become more of a focal point for the city."

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