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Heritage Days festival-goers check out the carnival and other Broadway Avenue attractions Saturday afternoon. (Bulletin photo by Scott Wente)

A Broadway revival: Heritage Days turnout down, but organizers' scrambling pays off

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Attendance was down at this year’s St. Paul Park Heritage Days festival but organizers were looking up after successfully staging a city celebration with fewer police incidents and promises of further improvements for the coming years.

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The festival, held Friday through Sunday and under the direction of new leadership, drew fewer people to the Broadway Avenue area events. Steamy weather, challenges with the festival’s planning and the earlier street dance on Saturday all were cited as possible factors.

Still, those who stepped forward to organize a more family-friendly festival were generally satisfied.

“Considering that none of us had ever run this before, I think it was a great success,” said Mayor Keith Franke, who helped run the festival.

There was a steep drop in criminal and alcohol-related activity, St. Paul Park police Chief Mike Monahan said.

Last year police fielded 38 Heritage Days-related calls, including some that resulted in arrests or transfers to an alcohol detox facility. This year there were only about a dozen police calls and no festival-related arrests, Monahan said, calling it “a far cry from last year.”

The spike in police calls in 2013 was a major driver in the change to an earlier street dance.

“It actually was a very good night all around,” he said. “The crowd was orderly for the most part.”

The four-hour street dance wrapped up at 8 p.m., more than two hours earlier than in past years. Police said Broadway was cleared of revelers by 9 p.m., but they may not have retreated to nearby bars.

“When I put my business hat on, it was one of the slowest Heritage Days I’ve seen,” said Franke, who owns the namesake Broadway bar. He said other businesses had similar experiences.

“It seemed like there was a good crowd toward the end of the street dance, but maybe people just opted to go home,” Franke said.

One of the main events was a big success. City Council member Sandi Dingle, a festival organizer, said the parade went really well. That was a relief to organizers, who did not have a list of previous parade entrants to invite to this year’s event but still ended up with a similar number of parade units.

“The feedback I’ve gotten is the parade was good,” she said.

There also was a good turnout for Sunday activities, which included the tractor pull, egg toss and water balloon toss. But Franke said Sundays traditionally are quieter than Saturday activities.

The volunteer Heritage Days Committee will meet next month to review the festival and look ahead to 2015, Franke said. It’s too early to discuss specific changes, he said, though he would be in favor of a street dance that ended “a little later.”

“I think we definitely got a good base to build on as far as going forward,” Franke said of the festival.

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Scott Wente
Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
(651) 459-7600
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