Thinking of a roadtrip to Duluth? Here’s a weekend guide packed with events all summer

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DULUTH — Winter might be the purest time to love Duluth, but who needs purity when it’s 80 and sunny?

The Zenith City sees its biggest tourist crowds during the warmest months, and no wonder. Here’s your starter guide to summer shenanigans for each weekend from Memorial Day through Labor Day. It’s far from a comprehensive guide, so be sure to watch the News Tribune for coverage of many more events this sunny season.

The name “Bloody Mary” implies violence, although exactly how the breakfast cocktail was given that name has been lost to history. The first reference in the Oxford English Dictionary dates to 1939, when the recipe described was a bracing ratio of “half tomato juice, half vodka.” The drinks on offer at the Depot on Sunday, June 2, will likely be a little less booze-forward, with a variety of other ingredients competing for drinkers’ attention in the annual Twin Ports Bloody Mary Battle. A fundraiser for Minnesota Ballet, the event includes a MidCoast Catering brunch spread (minnesotaballet.org).

In fact, this weekend’s celebration of brunch drinks kicks off a day earlier, with the (unrelated) Duluth Margarita and Mimosa Fest in Canal Park on Saturday, June 1 (eventbrite.com).

June is Pride Month, and while Duluth Superior Pride takes place over Labor Day weekend, the Trans Joy Fest has become an annual occasion to celebrate the region’s transgender community. After two successful years at Gichi-Ode’ Akiing, the event is now moving to Park Point with dozens of vendors and over 30 performers Sunday, June 9.

“We’re definitely not a monolith as a group,” musician Bee Golding (Campfire Tranarchist) told the News Tribune in 2023. “It’s cool to see people being able to show how many different ways that they express who they are through whatever medium it is that they work in” (transnorthland.org).

This year, Duluth is hosting two Juneteenth events — on two different dates. The celebration starts Saturday, June 15, at Harrison Park with Twin Ports Juneteenth (facebook.com/twinportsjuneteenth). Then, on Wednesday, June 19, at the Central Hillside Community Center, the Duluth hosts the city’s 50th annual Juneteenth Jamboree (facebook.com/duluthnaacp).

“We know that this day did not signify everybody’s freedom across the country, but it was the main start of it,” Duluth NAACP President Classie Dudley said at last year’s Juneteenth Jamboree. “This is our Independence Day that we’re here celebrating with our community.”

Other important dates to note are June 13 and 14, when the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is holding an annual Day of Remembrance and Gravesite Memorial (claytonjacksonmcghie.org).

Everyone wants to run in Grandma’s Marathon, and why not? It’s a beautiful course, it’s relatively flat — ironic, in a city famed for its hill — and the afterparty is epic. The marathon takes over the city this weekend, so whether you’re a Dakotah Lindwurm superfan or someone who can’t tell Garry Bjorklund from Gary Bjorklund, you might as well base your plans around the Saturday, June 22, event. There are plenty of sweet viewing spots, and there’s free live music in Bayfront Festival Park on both Friday and Saturday nights. Did we mention spaghetti? (grandmasmarathon.com)

What’s more rhubarb than a Rhubarb Festival? A Super Rhubarb Festival! That’s what Chum is promising Saturday, June 29, in honor of the social service nonprofit’s 50th anniversary. “We are making more pie, more food, and even more games for everyone to enjoy,” according to the organization’s website. “Rhubarbara is even challenging some of the local mascots to a foot race!” If you don’t already know who Rhubarbara is, all the more reason to mark your calendar for this one (chumduluth.org).

Also this weekend: the Park Point Art Fair, which has to be one of the longest — geographically — art fairs in the U.S. (parkpointartfair.org).

Some communities have been eliminating July 4 fireworks in recent years, but Duluth — as with trains and pavement — likes to keep its history alive. Thus, after dark on Independence Day you can expect to see what may or may not technically be the largest fireworks show in the Upper Midwest light the sky above Bayfront Festival Park. Two of Duluth’s biggest annual concert draws are also hitting Bayfront this weekend: glam metal cover band Hairball (July 3) and Trampled By Turtles (July 6) (bayfrontfestivalpark.com).

The adjacent Duluth Entertainment Convention Center is no longer managing Bayfront, but it is managing to host an enormous taco festival July 6 (decc.org).

Once you’ve had a week to let those tons of tacos sink in, you’ll be all ready for the smorgasbord at Festival by the Lake. A wide variety of food and merchandise vendors will fill Bayfront for the aptly named Saturday, July 13, event, which also features live music by artists including Born Too Late and Sydney Hansen (festivalbythelake.com).

The preceding night, July 12, Downtown Duluth launches its annual free Movies in the Park series in the picturesque amphitheater at Leif Erikson Park. “Oppenheimer” may have won Best Picture at the Oscars, but Greta Gerwig will have the last laugh as “Barbie” plays in the prestigious opening night slot (downtownduluth.com).

Duluth’s premier global music event, the Bayfront Reggae and World Music Festival sees thousands of attendees gather each year to hear performers representing “a very diverse community of people from the Caribbean; people who represent the African diaspora,” organizer Janna Dreher told the News Tribune last year. “Honestly, I don’t think people realize the level of talent we are bringing in.”

This year’s event, Saturday, July 20, features seven performers including Rotimi, a Nigerian American artist blending Afrobeat with rhythm and blues; Jamaican American reggae artist Gramps Morgan; and Jamaican American reggae and pop star Alaine (bayfrontworldmusic.com).

From craft beer to saunamakkara, this weekend holds a feast for the senses. All Pints North, Minnesota’s dream destination beer festival, brings dozens of breweries to Bayfront for a Saturday, July 29, event that’s already sold out (mncraftbrew.org).

Next door at the DECC, FinnFest returns for the second of at least five years in Duluth. The sprawling festival July 24-28 offers a wide variety of Nordic experiences: culinary, cultural, scientific and even political. Why is Finland often called “the happiest country in the world”? This is your chance to find out (finnfest.us).

“City on the Hill is more than a music festival,” wrote a News Tribune reader in a letter published last year, “it’s a celebration of community, faith, and spiritual reflection.” The massive Christian music festival returns to Bayfront Festival Park on Friday, Aug. 2, and Saturday, Aug. 3. This year’s headliners include TobyMac (formerly of DC Talk) and Matthew West, but don’t sleep on Trampolines, whose 4:15 p.m. Friday set might become the biggest rave Bayfront sees this summer (cityonthehillmusicfest.com).

Out west, the Spirit Valley neighborhood is hosting its annual celebration of community, running from Aug. 1-3 with a Thursday evening parade and a Friday car show (spiritvalleydays.com).

Members of at least two American music dynasties are gracing this year’s Bayfront Blues Festival, running Friday, Aug. 9, through Sunday, Aug. 11. Friday performer Devon Allman is the son of Allman Brothers Band co-founder Gregg Allman, and Sunday will see a set by Buckwheat Zydeco Jr., son of the late accordion icon and steward of his band. (And the Northland appreciates a good accordion.) Saturday has plenty of fire as well, with performers including vocalist Shemekia Copeland (bayfrontblues.com).

Not Garfunkel, who hasn’t performed in Duluth — though his sometime bandmate Paul Simon played Bayfront with Bob Dylan in 1999. This is the kind of art you hang on your wall, or wear on your body, or display on a shelf. The festival Art in Bayfront Park returns on Saturday, Aug. 17, and Sunday, Aug. 18, with over 100 artists participating in the juried festival. Expect craft demonstrations and food vendors as well (artinbayfrontpark.com).

The annual Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival is in Superior, not Duluth, but it’s an event that captivates participants and spectators across the area. A tradition since 2002, the festival enlists dozens of teams to fill dragon boats: traditional Chinese rowing vessels used for racing in a contemporary international context since the 1970s. Organized by the Rotary Club of Superior, the Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival takes place Friday, Aug. 23, and Saturday, Aug. 24, at Barker’s Island and serves as a fundraiser to support military servicepeople and veterans who are living with trauma (superiordragons.org).

On this side of the harbor, tribute bands take the stage at Bayfront Festival Park for the aptly named Tribute Fest, also a fundraiser to support veterans — in this case, those experiencing homelessness. On Aug. 23-24, bands cover artists including Aerosmith, Journey, Led Zeppelin and Joan Jett (thetributefest.com).

For nearly 40 years, Duluth Superior Pride has brought the Twin Ports’ summer season to a triumphant, exuberant conclusion. Once again this year, a Saturday (Aug. 31) festival and Sunday (Sept. 1) parade are just the most visible events over the course of a long weekend uplifting two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual individuals in our community. Details for this year’s events will be announced soon, and can be found at duluthsuperiorpride.com.…Read more by Jay Gabler

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