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SUMMER RECREATION TAB Rochesterfest celebrates 20 years

Rochester's 20th annual Rochesterfest begins its nine-day run Saturday, June 16, with an American Heart Walk, a fund-raiser for the American Heart Association. Registration opens at 8 a.m. for the Soldiers Field event, which features one-, two- or three-mile courses. The walk begins at 9 a.m.

Rochesterfest started in 1983 and was envisioned as a one-time community celebration. The first one was a smashing success, however, and almost before the festivities were concluded community leaders were talking about the possibility of making the event an annual one.

This year's honorary chairman will be Chuck Hazama, Rochester mayor at the time of the first Rochesterfest and the main powerhouse behind it in its formative years.

Each year since, new events have been added and Rochesterfest seems to draw more and more people from the city and the surrounding area.

The following are a few of the events that might be of interest and offer something for almost anyone.

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At many events, prices or admission charges are reduced for people wearing Rochesterfest buttons. These are available at many businesses for $3 and the proceeds help defray the costs of the festival.

Another opening-day event will be an old standby, the Sand Blast sand sculpture contest at 10 a.m. at Foster-Arend Park.

Also at 10 a.m., the gates open for the annual Midwestern Lumberjack Championships at Silver Lake Park, with competition beginning at 11 a.m.

The annual event draws competitors from a number of states and several foreign countries and has become popular among professional lumberjack (and Jill) competitors.

Downtown events, including the ever-popular Taste of Rochester, will again be centered on Civic Center Drive and First Street Southeast, parts of both of which will be closed to traffic for the gala event.

Taste of Rochester, considered by some to be the premier event of Rochesterfest, will feature 28 food vendors offering a range of regional and ethnic cuisine far exceeding the usual outdoor festival fare.

New this year will be Strawberries &; Cream, featuring fresh strawberries topped by non-dairy creamer, and G &; C Concessions of Stewartville, featuring root beer floats, sloppy Joe's, ice cream dishes and a variety of other snacks.

Most of the popular standbys of past years will be returning.

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The vendors are open for business from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Monday, June 17, through Saturday, June 22).

Other popular events include a treasure hunt, with a prize of $500; a variety of free noontime entertainment at the First Street Stage; and a wide range of activities geared to children and families.

The grand parade Friday, June 21, will follow the same route as last year -- East on Center Street from Mayo Field, south on 11th Avenue Southeast to Fourth Street Southeast, west on Fourth Street Southeast to Civic Center Drive, then north and ending on East Center Street.

Another repeat event will be the Olmsted County Historical Society's Cemetery Walk in Oakwood Cemetery, in which costumed actors play the parts of people who have significant roles in Rochester's history.

A variety of evening entertainment will be offered at the downtown stage on Second Street Southeast, and there will be several evening dances for both teens and adults there.

Other events include a kite-flying festival, an old-fashioned ice cream social, a fishing contest, a Golf Shoot-Out and Putting Contest for big prizes, a used book sale at the Rochester Public Library, a penny carnival, hot-air balloon races, a volleyball tournament and baseball games (both historic and contemporary), and much more.

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