By Nicole Brodzik
While the Spirit of the Lakes has grown in popularity over the last ten years, but this time around, it’ll be shrinking in duration.
Citing issues with bringing in enough volunteers, vice chair and festival coordinator Kandis Hanson said that this year’s two-day festival will be more manageable for her and her fellow board members.
“We’ve come a long way in the short time since the festival’s inception,” Hanson said. “We just needed to scale it back to a manageable size.”
The festival will now run from Friday to Saturday, with Thursday’s Boots and Badges event, live music and children’s parade being cut from the official festivities.
But just because the Spirit of the Lakes isn’t officially holding any events Thursday, doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty for the whole family to do on the eve of the festival.
This year, Westonka Community Education will be hosting it’s weekly Music in the Park event, which will help to replace the live musical acts that used to perform the first night of the festival. Even though the festival itself isn’t hosting a kiddie parade, doesn’t mean there won’t be one either.
This time around, the parade, which will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, will be sponsored by Westonka Community Schools and State Farm Insurance agent Janet Symons. Symons has been a long-time supporter of the Thursday evening parade and wasn’t prepared to see it come to an end.
“Year after year, I enjoy having the kids and the kids who are grown bring their kids to have their picture with our mascot, the Good NeighBear,” she said. “They grow, families grow, yet roots return to enjoy this event. I chose to do it for our community, for the families, for traditions and for the kids.”
While community members have kept the traditions of the festival’s third day alive, the decision to cut the festival down wasn’t made lightly, or quickly. The planning for this year’s festival started last October.
“I mean this festival started as nothing more than a simple art fair, but with all the events now, it takes a while to plan,” Hanson said, “With this year going down to two days, it took some extra planning to get it right,”
Even though the festival loses it’s own family friendly Thursday night events, Hanson and company say there’s still plenty for all ages to enjoy at this year’s events.
In recent years, one of the biggest draws for festival-goers young and old has been the Wake Surf Competition.
“We have competitors that are teenagers and some that are senior citizens,” Hanson said.
The competition will start on Saturday morning at 9 a.m., with the awards ceremony taking place at 7:30 p.m.
For festival-goers 21 and older, there are a number of alcohol tasting events on both Friday and Saturday.
The first is the Meet the Maker: MN Craft Beverage Fest which runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday night. This will be the first beverage fest for Spirit of the Lakes. In the past, they’ve held a similar event with local brewers. but this will be the first year it includes not just breweries, but also cider houses, distilleries and wineries.
Last year, the event drew 12 different brewers from around the Lake Minnetonka region. With the expanded menu options, this year’s version will see around 20 different vendors.
Other tasting events will take place on Saturday with a wine tasting event at 2:15 p.m. and a wine pairing put on by Mound’s Dakota Junction at 4:15 p.m.
Tickets for all three tasting events can be purchased at Harbor Wine and Spirits prior to the festival, or at the event if they have not sold out.
Aside from the tasting events, some of the biggest draws each year, according to Hanson, involve fire.
“The fireworks are the best on Lake Minnetonka,” Hanson said. “That’s not exaggerating. They are.”
The light show will be set to choreographed music that can be heard from the park. Before the fireworks light up the sky, though, there will be fire dancers performing at Surfside Park.
“The first year we had them, people were in awe,” Hanson said. “There were kids up near the stage with their eyes wide and their mouths open. It’s a great show for the whole family.”
And the Spirit of the Lakes has plenty to feed the whole family as well. With a food court Hanson compared to the Minnesota State Fair, there will be plenty to choose from. Foodies of all ages should be pleased.
“We want to invite everyone and their families to come out, enjoy some good food and make a day of it,” Hanson said.
The Spirit of the Lakes Festival will take place July 15 and 16 at Surfside Park and Beach in Mound.