School’s out and warm weather is upon us, which means White Bear Lake’s two largest festivals, Manitou Days and Marketfest, are right around the corner. These two events bring together old and new neighbors, families and friends from across the metro, and each festival offers something unique to both the novice and veteran festival fanatic.
Originally called Summer Fun Days, this festival began in the 1960s and was coordinated by the White Bear Lake Chamber of Commerce. During this time, various events were planned in the downtown area, at the White Bear Shopping Center, on the lake, at Memorial and Ramsey County beaches and area schools. Today the volunteer committee, White Bear Events, runs the festival.
“There are dozens of volunteers,” Sara Markoe Hanson, executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society, says. “The committee generally consists of 30 to 40 volunteers who are liaisons to the 60-plus events, and then each event has its own volunteers.”
Running June 18 to July 4, this festival kicks off its theme of “All-American Bears” with the Grande Parade. Held June 19 at 6:30 p.m., the parade is run by co-chairs Paul Carlson and Ken B. Peterson, director/owner of Johnson Peterson Funeral Homes & Cremation.
“You go all day from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. making sure that the mile-long parade route and the 100 units in the parade are ready to go,” Carlson says. “You get tired, but you keep on going because, in the end, the majority of this event is for the kids, and when you have a job title that puts smiles on kids’ faces, that’s what it’s all about.”
One event that Peterson loves is the children’s button contest. “The elementary students create designs for the festival’s button contest, and some of them are really great,” Peterson says. “We receive over 500 entries, and one year we had the winner and runner-up from the same class, which was really unusual.”
To close out the kick-off parade, attendees are invited to the beach dance from 8 to 11 p.m. where they can enjoy a live performance from local band Free & Easy.
On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., boating fanatics can check out the classic and vintage boat show near the White Bear Shopping Center on Lake Avenue. Pat Oven, chair of the classic boat show, is always excited to see what new boats will come through.
“We have a very eclectic mix of boats,” Oven says. “We take in between 60 and 70 displays and we do not confine it to just wooden boats. We welcome aluminum and fiberglass ones that have been built to old specifications starting from 1900 through 1975. This has been something fun for me, and every single boat has a story. It’s nice to see people observe and be part of the show, but when you get the stories that go with the boat, it adds a whole different dimension.”
Running Thursdays from June 18 to July 30, 6 to 9 p.m., this event brings between 3,000 and 5,000 people from across the metro to downtown White Bear Lake. More than 140 vendors will set up shop to introduce people to various cuisines, arts and crafts, and live music from local bands.
“The most exciting part of the festival is that we are showcasing the community and all the involvement of the volunteers,” Deb Stender, director of Marketfest Deb, says. “It’s so evident that people care and love their community. It’s a fun thing, and the people that participate see it as a fun summer activity to look forward to.”
Guests can check out events such as the car show; activities for children such as bounce houses, a petting zoo and climbing wall; and craft vendors. The entire community gets involved, including public service workers.
“The fire department will bring down an ambulance and fire truck, and the police will have a squad car here for the kids to go through,” Marketfest chair Dale Grambush says. “It’s a great way to get the kids involved,” Stender adds.
For some, though, the best part is the chance to see old friends and familiar faces.
“People who have moved away come back and see their old neighbors, or have gone off to college and come back for an evening at Marketfest,” Grambush says. “It’s a family festival, and it shows in our volunteers and the relationships we have with them and the vendors.”
Whether you’re eating, dancing to the live music or just letting your kids blow off steam, Marketfest aims to create a memorable experience. “It’s a really nice festival that attracts and brings something for everybody,” Stender says. “To be part of something that is really fun and where everyone cares and loves their community is really a pleasure for me, and I’m proud to be part of this community.”
For a complete listing of the 60-plus Manitou Days events, visit the website here. Find more information on the classic and vintage boat show here, and for more information on Marketfest visit their website and facebook page.