Neighborhood festival grows from 250 to 2,500 attendees in five years
By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Como Neighborhood Days (formerly called Como Fest) returns this year on Fri., July 11 to Sun., July 13.
“I love this event because it’s great to see how this community comes together – the people behind the scenes making the events happen and the neighbors that attend and support the event,” said AndreaLynn Johnson, who has been involved in the event since its beginning as “Staycation” in 2010.
She added, “The variety of activities offered throughout the weekend gets richer and more interesting each year. I have to agree with what I have heard about why people attend this event, and that is that it’s got a very ‘neighborhoody’ feel to it – inviting sense of community around family-friendly events.”
According to District 10 Administrator Ted Blank, “It’s a great way to enjoy the neighborhood, connect with your neighbors, and experience some uniquely creative performances.”
The event was started in 2010 by the District 10 Como Community Council, along with several neighborhood organizations and businesses.
“The goal was to offer folks a weekend of affordable fun in their own neighborhood and to highlight neighborhood businesses and other amenities,” explained Blank.
Northwest Como Park Recreation Director Darcy Rivers remembers meeting in 2010 with Rhonda DeBough from District 10 to discuss what had been done in the past for National Night Out. “Rhonda suggested we do something before National Night Out to help promote that event and get the word out so we began Staycation,” recalled Rivers. “Because of the budget crunch, we figured people were not traveling as much and would like to do something in their own community.”
The first year it was a three-day event, July 23-25, 2010 and it drew 250 people. It began with a battle of the bands weekend event at The Coffee Grounds on Hamline Ave. Chelsea Heights PTO organized a flea market, Northwest
Como hosted a movie night and District 10 offered a bike ride, garden tour and art crawl.
As an active District 10 block leader at the time, Johnson was approached by then District 10 Community Organizer DeBough about participating in planning an art event during a greater community-building event. “We thought we could find ways for families to enjoy a fun yet budget-friendly weekend in their own backyard – a staycation!” Johnson remarked.
The second year was similar to the first, and attracted more attendees than the year before. The Hubert H. Humphrey Job Corp pitched in to help make things run smoothly.
“The third year we changed the name to Como Fest in hopes of reaching more people,” stated Rivers.
Several other businesses added to the line-up of events in 2012. Lyngblomsten Care Center hosted a Mid-Summer Festival. Black Bear Crossings Cafe offered a wine and cheese social on Friday night. Chelsea Heights PTO added inflatables, carnival games and concessions during the flea market on Saturday. Como Park Language and Arts Preschool organized Make and Take Art projects, the Como Block Nurse Program performed blood pressure checks, and Kinderberry Hill in Roseville offered free Kite Making for Kids. On Sunday, Como Park Lutheran Church held an outdoor worship service with a live band and organized a kickball tournament.
In 2013, the event continued to grow with the addition of event sponsors Linders, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and TopLine Federal Credit Union. There was a beer and wine tasting event at Como Park Grill. And the Friday night movie (with a jump castle, climbing tower, craft, concessions, bingo and the movie) expanded into a campout. “Families pre-register and bring their tents and camping supplies, enjoy a campfire after the movie, then hit their sleeping bags. We wake them in the morning, serve a light breakfast at 8am, then pack up and head out,” said Rivers.
“Como Neighborhood Days has grown and evolved over the years since it started as the Staycation,” observed Blank. “In 2012, the Lyngblomsten Mid-Summer Festival became part of our lineup, which brought a well-established neighborhood arts event on board. Venues for Como Neighborhood Days have changed, as businesses have opened and closed.”
“It has evolved to include a wider range of activities for children to grandparents, as well as more partners and venues, and promotes various businesses and services in District 10,” said Johnson. While some things have changed, with the bike ride and garden tour spinning off as separate events, others parts, such as the Art Fair with hands-on/take-away children art projects and carnival games/movie at North Dale Recreation Center, have stayed intact over the years. “The events have remained virtually free or at a low cost to families have been important for us to maintain,” said Johnson.
“Attendees enjoy the informal nature of the event, getting to have fun right in their own neighborhood, and sampling neighborhood businesses,” remarked Blank.
Last year 2,000 people attended the festival, and this year organizers expect to serve 2,500.
Rivers praised the people who volunteer to make this festival happen. “That’s one major reason why the event is so good,” she said.
JULY 11-13, 2014
The 2014 lineup includes events at Northwest Como Recreation Center, Lyngblomsten, Como Park Grill, and Black Bear Crossings.
Friday, July 11
12 -10pm. Firkin Friday with Summit Brewing at Como Park Grill
6-9pm. Family Movie Night at Northwest Como Recreation Center
Saturday, July 12
11am-6pm. Lyngblomsten Mid-Summer Festival at Lyngblomsten
4-10pm. Patio Party at Como Park Grill
Sunday, July 13
10am-noon. Live Music at Black Bear Crossings
12-4:30pm. Art Fair at Como Lakeside Pavilion/Black Bear Crossings
12-2:30pm. Make and Take Children’s Activities at Como Lakeside Pavilion/Black Bear Crossings
3-4:30pm. Pops Concert at Como Lakeside Pavilion/Black Bear Crossings
Remember that each of these time blocks has multiple activities and participants—find the full schedule at www.district10comopark.org/neigh_days.html and its links.
“What’s valuable about this event is bringing together neighbors of all ages, as well as neighborhood businesses, to promote/celebrate the talents found within the community – all for low to no cost for families,” said Johnson.