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Minnesota boasts many noteworthy festivals and events throughout the year, giving residents and visitors alike the opportunity to participate in a kaleidoscope of activities. Every corner of the state showcases spectacular events, highlighting the heritage and culture of the region, ranging from German Oktoberfest festivities, ice fishing adventures to American Indian powwows. Visit with colorful fur traders at Big Island Rendezvous in Albert Lea, or experience one of the largest state fairs in the nation in St. Paul. Minnesota festivals and events offer a unique experience for everyone.
In addition to the sampling of festivals listed below, hundreds of other events take place throughout the state. For more information, please visit www.exploreminnesota.com/events, and sign up for free weekly events newsletters here: http://www.exploreminnesota.com/eNewsletterSignup.aspx
Saint Paul Winter Carnival
Jan. 22 – Feb. 1, 2015
Long known as the nation's oldest winter festival, since 1886 the Carnival has provided indoor and outdoor fun while reliving the ancient legend of springtime's triumph over winter. The celebration features 75 events including parades, ice and snow carving competitions, ice skating, golf on ice and singing contests.
Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship, St. Paul
Jan. 23 – Jan 25, 2015
The Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship makes its way to St. Paul, Minnesota, for the fourth year in a row in 2015 as one of five stops around the world. Two hundred of the toughest, fastest, ice cross downhill racers will go head-to-head through a downhill course full of mind-and-body-bending jumps, turns and slides – all against the backdrop of the historic Cathedral of Saint Paul with more than 100,000 spectators. Admission is free.
Brainerd Ice Fishing Extravaganza
January 24, 2015
In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, what’s billed the world’s ice fishing event, is held each January on Gull Lake, where anglers compete for more than $150,000 in cash and prizes, including a new truck, ATVs, ice augers, ice fishing equipment, more. Competitors and spectators alike will enjoy the camaraderie on what seemingly represents a city on ice with a parking lot, rows of tents, food booths, and even shopping areas. Over 10,000 anglers from around the world compete in this fun outdoor ice event.
International Eelpout Festival, Walker
Feb. 19 – 22, 2015
This festival is a tradition steeped in ice angling on Leech Lake for one of the ugliest bottom-dwelling fish. The 35th Annual International Eelpout Festival attracts more than 10,000 participants and visitors to the tiny town of Walker, Minn., (pop. 1,500) for three days in February. Several activities are held throughout the weekend, including the 10th-annual Polar Pout Plunge, curling, bull riding, auto ice racing, rugby and a fishing show. Always a spectacle, this bucket list-worthy adventure has increasingly drawn national attention, including "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
Grumpy Old Men Festival, Wabasha
February 28, 2015
Celebrate winter with that grumpy old man's hobby of ice fishing, in the town that inspired the movie of the same name. Activities include an ice shack contest, the 7th Annual Grumpy Plunge, frisbee games, golf tournaments on snow, bird watching and a spaghetti dinner and dance. You won’t run into Walter Matthau or Jack Lemmon, but this quaint Mississippi River town knows how to celebrate.
Grand Celebration Pow Wow, Hinckley
This American Indian event is the largest powwow in the Midwest with more than 1,200 dancers, drummers and singers from nearly every tribe in the USA and Canada participating. In addition to watching the dances, visitors learn about American Indian traditions, eat traditional food and purchase handmade crafts.
Scandinavian Hjemkomst & Midwest Viking Festivals, Moorhead
June 26 – 27, 2015
This authentic Scandinavian event features dancing, entertainment, booths and food celebrating the heritage of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The festival takes place at the Heritage Hjemkomst Center, home of the Viking ship that sailed from Minnesota to Norway in 1982.
Basilica Block Party, Minneapolis
July 10 – 11, 2015
A favorite summertime event in the Twin Cities, the Basilica Block Party is a great way to celebrate good music, nice weather and community. The two-day festival is family-friendly event that attracts diverse crowds of all ages. Festival goers not only jam to the beat of good music, but to a good cause, as all concert proceeds go to preserving the historic Basilica of St. Mary – a landmark that has been an integral part of the community for more than a century, and also benefits the St. Vincent de Paul outreach program, an organization that provides food and shelter to nearly 3,500 people each month.
Minneapolis Aquatennial Festival, Minneapolis
Summer in the Twin Cities is full of festivals – one of the biggest and the oldest being the Minneapolis Aquatennial. Touted as “the best days of summer,” thousands of Minneapolis residents, workers, and visitors participate in the nine day celebration, enjoying everything from sandcastle building tournaments, water ski shows, triathlons to parades and firework displays.
Blueberry Art Festival, Ely
July 24 – 26, 2015
This three-day event in Whiteside Park in beautiful Ely Minnesota features 300 exhibitors of original art, photography, handcraft items, clothing, ethnic foods, plus a variety of musical entertainment. And to top it off, blueberry pancake breakfasts are served both Saturday and Sunday mornings at the event.
Bayfront Blues Festival, Duluth
Aug. 7 – 9. 2015
One of the largest outdoor music festivals in the Midwest, the 26th annual Bayfront Blues Festival showcases nearly 30 national performances on two concert stages. Additional weekend events include a Moonlight Mardi Gras Cruise and live blues performances at nearly 20 Duluth nightclubs. The event takes place in Canal Park on Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world.
Minnesota Renaissance Festival
Aug. 22 – Oct. 4, 2015
Journey back in time to a 16th-century European village at the 43rd-annual Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee, MN. The popular festival dons 120 European food booths, live jousting, elephant rides and belly dancing. Plus, an abundance of artisans, selling everything from 16th-century attire, pottery and hand-blown glass to real battle axes. The event welcomes more than 300,000 people each year, becoming one of the largest renaissance festivals in the country.
Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul
Aug. 27 – Sept. 7, 2015
The Great Minnesota Get-Together features world-class entertainment, agricultural exhibits, horse shows, a rodeo, arts and craft displays, amusement park rides, a daily parade and food of every variety, often served on a stick! The event attracts almost 2 million visitors each year.
The Defeat of Jesse James Days
Sept. 9 – 13, 2015
Each year on the second weekend of September, townspeople of Northfield, Minnesota and visitors alike commemorate and re-enact the James-Younger Gang's notorious 1876 bank raid on the town. The popular event features a bank raid re-enactment, Jesse James Bike tour, horseshoe hunt, classic car show, old-time tractor pull, parade, arts festival, carnival, and much more.
Big Island Rendezvous & Festival, Albert Lea
This celebration of history during the fur trade period of America (1650-1840) and early frontier America features music performances by groups from throughout the U.S. and Canada, hundreds of tents and campfires with more than 1,000 living history re-enactors carrying on daily life as it would have been more than 200 years ago. Demonstrations of colonial crafts, Native American skills and pioneer life are showcased throughout the festival so you can try your hand at rigid heddle weaving, spinning and spoon carving, or watch a gunsmith create a work of art.
Oktoberfest, New Ulm
This old world celebration features live local, regional and European entertainment, along with plenty of great German food and locally brewed August Schell's beer. Held the first two weekends in Oct., the festival also boasts musical entertainment, including New Ulm's famous Concord Singers, German brass bands, polka bands and more, and was even ranked one of "10 great places to celebrate Octoberfest" by USA Today Travel.
Bentleyville Tour of Lights, Duluth
Nov. 21 – Dec. 27, 2015
Tis' the season for holiday tradition filled with family, friends and celebration on the shores of Lake Superior at Bayfront Festival Park, home to the largest holiday display in the Midwest. Bentleyville Tour of Lights is a magical display of nearly three million lights and the tallest Christmas tree in the U.S. (twice the height of New York City's famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree). Admission to Bentleyville Tour of Lights is free to the public.