Harvest Fest looks to go full scale

The parade draws marching bands from area schools such as Farnsworth Aerospace Elementary School. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

In 2011, the Payne Area Business Association’s musical lineup for the Mexican Independence Celebration drew many fans.

The parade will feature colorful costumes and floats.

Back in 1932, Harvest fest was a huge event along Payne Avenue, and featured banners adorning the commercial strip. (submitted photo)

Last year’s festival was sort of an on-foot trial run with a more modest walking parade, This year, Harvest Fest reboots its full parade tradition, adding back floats, vehicle units, marching bands and more. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

The loudest and reddest entries in the parade: local fire departments’ vehicles. Onlookers always appreciate getting to thank the heroic crews who staff them. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Full-on parade is back in business

For the first time since 2007, Harvest Fest will be a full-blown festival with a parade closing down the avenue -- after a years-long lull Payne Avenue from Maryland Avenue down to Phalen Boulevard will again be closed off, making way for a parade with roughly 50 groups marching on Saturday, Sept. 20 starting at noon.

For the past few years, the event has been a simple pedestrian parade, with only half the street closed off.

“This year we’re actually going full-scale,” said Anne DeJoy, who helped organize the event. “We will have floats; we will have classic cars, and we will have fire engines.”

DeJoy said the comeback of a full-scale parade was years in the making, and took a lot of early effort. The core planning group started meeting weekly way back in April.

A growing corridor

“We feel like this was the year to do it,” added DeJoy, who works for the East Side Neighborhood Development Company. “With the celebration of new businesses opening on Payne Avenue ... with the amount of commercial revitalization that’s been going on ... there was something here to celebrate.”

The street will be closed from noon to 6 p.m., with the parade starting right at noon.

The parade floats will start just south of Maryland Avenue and cruise on down the avenue, dressed with a smattering of new businesses, going down to Phalen Boulevard.

After the parade is finished, the festivities will continue with an international celebration in the vacant lot between Ward 6 restaurant and Kendall’s Ace Hardware until 6 p.m.

But the fest goes beyond Saturday afternoon activities -- there’s also dancing and live music the night before, a pancake breakfast on Saturday morning, and a sandlot baseball game on Sunday at Wilder Park.

Built by community

Tracy Nelson, the event organizer, said a lot of promotion for the event was done the old-fashioned way -- word of mouth, and button sales.

The East Side Lions made buttons, and sold button boards to businesses, which would in turn display the buttons and sell them to customers. Like that, the event would be promoted both through the local stores, but also through the buttons that East Siders wear.

DeJoy said the scaling up of the event comes from a general willingness to pitch in on the part of community groups.

“Different groups stepped up and said they would take on this part or this part,” she said.

International fest

Ramiro Hernandez, owner of Bymore Grocery, is putting all he’s got into promoting the interational festival that follows the parade, and takes place in between Ward 6 and Bymore Supermercado grocery.

Hernandez also happens to own the radio station La Mera Buena 107.5 FM, and is promoting the event to the Hispanic community via the station.

He said that means Hispanic people from throughout the Twin Cities could end up coming to the event. He’s hoping they come and check out Payne Avenue and get a taste of the East Side.

The international festival should be a multi-cultural event, Hernandez said, noting there will be Spanish, Somali and Hmong performers playing music, singing, and dancing. There will also be a variety of vendors selling food, clothes, gifts and more.

The bottom line, he said, is “everyone is welcome.

“Come and have fun!” he said.

A fest of lore

The festival was a big part of the East Side’s identity for much of the 20th century. East Siders would come out in droves and pack Payne Avenue from Maryland all the way down to where Phalen Boulevard now sits.

It was also a feeder for the St. Paul Winter Carnival, DeJoy said. The East Side was the “East Winds” of the city for the Winter Carnival -- Harvest Fest would have a queen, who would go on to compete for the title of “Queen of Snows.”

The event encompassed the East Side at large, featuring marching bands from Harding and Johnson high schools, a cornucopia of neighborhood groups - civic organizations, non-profits, churches, the Lions Club - and businesses.

Nelson recalled a time when Harvest Fest was among the biggest festivals in the whole city.

And while the 2014 event isn’t quite like it used to be, it’s certainly building, she said.

“It’s definitely heading in the right direction, finally, which is fantastic,” she said. “It’s a great thing to see the East Side having fun.”

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

A cornucopia of events to attend Harvest Fest dance

The Harvest Moon Dance featuring the Willie Walker Band will take place Friday, Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. at the American Legion Post 577, 1129 Arcade St. Contact Tracy Nelson at 651-468-7708 or go to www.paba-stpaul.org for more information

Pancake Breakfast
From 7:30 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 20, a Pancake breakfast is held at Arlington Hills Lutheran Church, 1115 Greenbrier St.

A full-on parade, the first for seven years, starts at noon near the intersection of Payne and Maryland avenues. The parade will end down near Kendall’s Ace Hardware.

International festival
Following the parade, a festival will be held in the empty lot between Ward 6 and Kendall’s Ace Hardware. There will be live music and dancing, hot food from a variety of vendors, and gifts and clothes and other items for sale.

Sandlot baseball game
In a nod to “the good old days” a sandlot baseball game will be held at Wilder Park from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21. The event will include free hot dogs and other food, as well as wiffle ball for the kids.


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