For many people, the Fourth of July is about traditions. Same fireworks, same lawn chairs, same cabin up north, same barbecue. There’s nothing wrong with tradition. Tradition is grand. But here’s in case you want to mix things up, add something new or even start over.
Go to St. Paul’s only Fourth of July parade. This will be the 71st anniversary of the Fourth in the Park, St. Anthony Park’s annual Indie Day celebration. The parade starts at 11 a.m. and proceeds from Luther Place down Como Ave. to Langford Park via Knapp. It includes a color guard, VIPs, scouts, neighborhood units, marching bands, floats, fire trucks, classic cars, a lawnmower brigade, and kids on decorated bikes and trikes. The parade will be followed with a program at the Langford Park bandstand with music, speeches, and winners of the patriotic essay contest. There will be food trucks, tournaments (horseshoes, volleyball, bean bag toss and tennis), pony rides and races. Then head for the Sunrise Banks parking lot and a Back to the Fourth Happy Hour from 4-6 p.m., featuring the Rocking Hollywoods. FMI including events schedule and map.
Spend the Fourth at Fort Snelling. Cannon and musket salutes, military dress parades, fife and drum music, mock 1812 battles, abolitionist rallies and baseball games give glimpses into how Americans celebrated the holiday nearly two centuries ago. But it wasn’t all fun and games for everyone. Interactive stations around the fort show how enslaved people, Native Americans and women have struggled for freedom and independence. 10:15 a.m.-5 p.m. FMI and tickets (included with $6-12 site admission; Minnesota Historical Society members free). Many MNHS sites are open on the Fourth including Oliver Kelley Farm, which will host a Farmer’s Fourth of July.
Catch some fireworks. We once watched the downtown St. Paul fireworks from the deck of the Minnesota Centennial Showboat. That was pretty great. But there’s no more Showboat (is it going to Winona or not?) and a GoFundMe effort to fund fireworks fizzled. (St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter put the kibosh on fireworks last year, citing costs and more pressing priorities.) Best bet if you’re looking for maximum dazzle and bang: Arrive early and claim a spot on the Stone Arch Bridge in downtown Minneapolis, where you’ll be right under the Red, White, and Boom show. Food vendors and live music stages will be set up on both ends of the bridge. Food and entertainment start at 6:30 p.m., fireworks at 10. Another great place to watch from: Gold Medal Park. It’s too late for this year – tickets are sold out – but Mill City Museum sells tickets to its Koch Observation Deck for a spectacular view of the fireworks. Make a note in your calendar for next year. And who says you have to stay in the cities? Explore Minnesota has a whole list of other places to go. What about Cannon Falls? Eagan? Edina? Maplewood?
Take a road trip, with jazz. Just down the road about 280 miles (from downtown Minneapolis), Iowa City, a charming college town on a river, hosts an impressive three-day jazz festival that’s well worth the drive. The main stage is on the University of Iowa’s Pentacrest, a spacious green lawn where you can set up your chair early in the day and leave it until you return. Smaller stages are on the adjacent city streets, which are lined with bars, restaurants, and shops. (We wish we could remember the name of the place where the menu includes a Bucket of Bacon. Ask around.) It’s all walkable. This year’s headliners include Nayo Jones (who played our own Twin Cities Jazz Festival last summer), Jane Bunnett, Craig Taborn (who grew up in Golden Valley), Danilo Perez with special guest Chris Potter, Mary Halvorson’s Thumbscrew (Halvorson is on the Walker’s 2019-20 Performing Arts Season) and the Bad Plus. Everything is free except events at the Mill, a nearby (also walkable) club, and tickets to those events (Thumbscrew, The Bad Plus) are $10-15. Friday, July 5-Sunday, July 7. Friday ends with serious fireworks. FMI including complete schedule.
Today (Wednesday, July 3) and Saturday at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre: National Theatre Live: “Small Island.” This widely praised production of Andrea Levy’s prize-winning novel tells the story of first-generation Jamaican immigrants in post-WWII Britain. The UK faced a labor shortage after the war, and Jamaicans and other Commonwealth people had been granted British citizenship. Which didn’t mean the English welcomed them with open arms when they arrived in search of a better life. Here’s a bit of background. With a cast of 40, the play was filmed live on stage as part of National Theatre Live’s 10th birthday.The Guardian called it “Momentous theatre. One of the most important plays of the year.” 1 p.m. Wednesday. Also 1 p.m. Saturday, July 6. FMI including trailer, times and tickets.
Opens Friday at the History Theatre: “Glensheen.” It’s baaaaack! On its face, this whole plan should not have worked. Make a musical out of a brutal double murder that took place in Duluth in 1977? And not just any musical, but one with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments? Prolific playwright Jeffrey Hatcher and musician Chan Poling (Suburbs, New Standards) did everything right, creating the most popular and successful production in the History Theatre’s, well, history. This will be its fourth return after the 2013 world premiere. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25-58). New this year: the theater will host a “Glensheen Sing-Along” on Aug. 3 at 2 p.m. BTW the original cast recording is now available. And here’s an enlightening MN Original segment.
Starts Friday at the Edina Cinema: “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.” Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ documentary of the Nobel Prize-winning author lets Morrison tell her own story, or as much as she chooses to share, with help from Oprah Winfrey, Russell Banks, Angela Davis, Sonia Sanchez and other admirers. “Navigating a white male world was not threatening,” Morrison says at one point in the film. “It wasn’t even interesting. I was more interesting than they were. I knew more than they did. And I wasn’t afraid to show it.” FMI including trailer, times and tickets.
Friday at the Dakota: Meckler Family Going Away Party. Trumpeter, composer, educator, bandleader and force of nature Adam Meckler recently accepted a position as the director of jazz studies at Michigan Technological University. Good on him, sad on us, because Meckler and his wife, vocalist Jana Nyberg, have been mainstays of our music community – especially jazz – for a decade. Meckler was formerly on the faculty of McNally Smith; like everyone there, including the students, he was tossed out the door shortly before Christmas 2017, when the school abruptly closed. His and Jana’s second child had just been born. Meckler wrote a recent Facebook post about how tough it has been ever since to take care of a family of four on freelance income alone. He’s very good, he works hard, and he plays a lot, but still. His album release at the Parkway earlier this year with the 18-piece Adam Meckler Orchestra – which plays only his music – was a blast. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15-25).