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How two friends from St. Paul saved Grand Old Day

Grand Old Day

Grand Old Day Star Tribune

After surviving cancellation, this Sunday’s Grand Old Day will be just a little bit sweeter. A lot of kudos for that goes to two friends who decided they weren't going to let St. Paul have a Grand Old Day-less year.

Grand Old Day 2019

Grand Avenue
Free; $25 for the bar crawl (thelexmn.com); beer garden wristbands are $10 (grandave.com)

Ashley LeMay and Andy Rodriguez have been friends since junior high. LeMay's mom owns Tavern on Grand, and the two of them are “just St. Paul kids who grew up going to Grand Old Day and have a strong affinity to the event,” Rodriguez says. “It's been a strong tradition for 46 years. We didn't want the event to go away.”

After the Grand Avenue Business Association (GABA) announced the festival and parade would take the year off, LeMay and Rodriguez jokingly decided to put up a bar crawl event on Facebook, called “Grand Old Day Anyway.”

“That joke hit reality within 24 hours,” Rodriguez says. Over 10,000 people showed their support in just a day. Soon after, bars like Summit Brewing Company and the Lexington were on board to do a bar crawl. “And it started to snowball from there,” he says.

Next LeMay and Rodriguez talked with the folks at GABA, who were able to secure additional sponsorships for Grand Old Day. Working with the city on some of the permits required, the business association was able to announce at the beginning of May that the event was back on.

And it's going to be better than ever. In addition to the traditional parade that travels from Dale to Fairview, music, and beer gardens, there's some new stuff too. Grand Old Day Bingo will score you points for your people-watching skills. Spot a cat shirt? A fanny pack? Tim Sigler? Cross off that square!

There will be family-friendly happenings too, like a kids' dance party hosted by Frogtown radio, and a futsal area for playing street-style soccer. “It's kind of cool for kids and families to participate,” Rodriguez says. “It's just something different.”

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Returning this year is live pro wrestling and music, including Martin Zellar's Tribute to Neil Diamond, Tom Petty Tribute band the Affordable$, and Tim Sigler.

Oh, and LeMay and Rodriguez will, fittingly, be grand marshals in the parade. After that, they'll be involved with the beer crawl, which is still happening. The price of the beer crawl comes with a wrist band needed for the beer garden areas, plus you get a T-shirt, and your first Summit is free. The rest of the day, you can drink beers for $4 a day at participating vendors.

Rodriguez says the Grand Old Day Anyway team is also collecting food and monetary donations for Second Harvest Heartland.

“I'm just excited for the day,” Rodriguez says. “I'm glad people get to enjoy it and the nice weather. I think we're going to get an awesome day.”

IF YOU GO:

Grand Old Day 2019
9:30 a.m. to 7 pm. Sunday, June 2
Grand Avenue, St. Paul
Wrist bands are $8 in advance/$10 day of
grandave.com