Grand Old Day 2011

There are usually a few markers of the first days of summer: The snow melts, dandelions pop up everywhere, and Grand Old Day takes over St. Paul. This annual event has become a favorite local tradition and has something for everyone, from live music to family activities to parades to shopping. Those interested in the festival gardens can purchase a wristband for admission to the live stages, featuring nearly 20 of the best performers on the local music scene, including Communist Daughter, Heiruspecs, and Phantom Tails. Pick up food tickets at the booths along Grand Avenue to sample the best of what the famed street has to offer. People can work those delicious calories off in advance with an early run, walk, jog, or inline skate sponsored by the Sporting Life. Kids should check out the Family Fun Zone, filled to the brim with great activities, including bounce houses, mini-golf courses, and a petting zoo. Watch the Hometown Heroes parade honoring firemen, veterans, educators, and superheroes. Paint pianos as part of the Keys 4/4 Kids Twin Cities' upcoming Pianos on Parade, a public art project that will exhibit pianos around St. Paul for the public to play all summer. Or take a gander at some Art Cars, the coolest things on four wheels in the Twin Cities. Grand Old Day presenters encourage visitors to take advantage of green transportation options, but if walking or riding a bike isn't your cup of tea, print a free Metro Transit ride pass from the event's website. For a complete schedule of events and for more information, visit (Photo by Sarah Kannenberg)
Sun., June 5, 7:45 a.m.-5 p.m., 2011
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sandra zerwas
sandra zerwas

Grim Old Days When did Grand Old Day, a traditional celebration along Grand Avenue in St. Paul, become such a downer of an event? I have been attending the Grand Old Day festivities now for at least 35 years. As long as I can remember, I have always looked forward to this special day that is the unofficial rite of summer. But over the past few years I have noticed that the event has become more and more strict and less and less enjoyable. You use to be able to walk freely down the Avenue enjoying food and beverages, fun bands and people watching. Now I feel like the fun has been sucked right out of the festivities.

The downward slope started when we were forced to purchase a wrist band and then stand behind a police tape in a hot parking lot just to enjoy a beer. I remember my parents use to be able to sip a beer sitting in the shade right along the avenue. Now if you have small children and you would like to enjoy a beer, you have to bring your children into the “beer gardens,” which are too loud and too crowded for small children. You must chug your beer down faster than you would like just so you can get your child out of the beer gardens and on your way.

A few years ago, event organizers implemented the food and drink tickets. Gone are the days when you were able to purchase just an ice cream cone if that is all you wanted. Now you have to purchase the tickets in groups of 10, no matter how many tickets you really need. The food also seems to be priced so that you end up with about 4 extra tickets. This forces you to either eat the extra ticket cost or purchase more food than you need. Because of these changes over the past two or three years, I have refrained from making any food and beverage purchases and started to carry a cooler and snack bag for my daughter. I feel bad that I am not supporting the local vendors, but I am also upset about the racket they have set up.

What really pushed me over the edge this year were the actions of the Saint Paul Police Department. Officers were out with a vengeance, seemingly writing as many parking tickets that they could in one afternoon. My friend left the event somewhat earlier than I did. She told me that she was glad she had left because she observed the police driving up and down the local streets ticketing parked cars for every minor offence they could imagine. She even saw them measuring the distance of a motorcycle wheel from the curb and the distance between a parked car and the sidewalk. I was one of the lucky event goers that got a nice little surprise on my windshield after returning to my car. I was literally 15 to 18 feet from the end of the crosswalk. There was enough room for a small car to have pulled up behind me, but apparently the police had nothing better to do but to measure the distance. Of course I was not exactly the 20 feet they require from the crosswalk… so I get to give an extra $35 dollars to the Saint Paul Police Department for partaking in the Grand Old Day event.

My extended family and I have decided enough is enough. We will be boycotting Grand Old Day in the coming years. Next year will be my first missed Grand Old Day since it started 35 years ago, and I am very sad that such a long-standing tradition has to come to an end. My daughter who is only 7 will be missing out on what use to be a wonderful event. But I guess all good things must to come to an end. I think it is a shame that they could not have left this event as it was in years past. No longer do I find Grand Old Day the best day of summer. I now find it quite grim.