Markets and Music on the Mississippi sig

The party isn’t over.

Two years ago, when Little Falls seemed like one big construction zone, the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau (LFCVB) teamed up with several local partners to create The Big Dig. The event — which consisted of 11 block parties throughout the summer — brought art, music, food and much more to a downtown area in need of a boost.

The construction may have ended, but the legacy of The Big Dig will live on through Market and Music on the Mississippi.

“We had planned to do some events in 2020, but COVID came faster than we could actually do anything,” said LFCVB Executive Director Kris VonBerge. “We had some money saved up, and as we looked at this year, we saw things were changing (with COVID) so we said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Though The Big Dig was a precursor to the event, VonBerge said this will be “a new event with a life of its own.”

LFCVB and Great River Arts have partnered to host the community events, which will be held Thursdays, June 24, July 22 and Aug. 26, in Le Bourget Park. Other community partners include Sprout, the Little Falls Farmers Market, the city of Little Falls and many more.

Each event will include live music from a local artist — kicking off with Michael Shynes and his band, June 24 — along several local vendors. Some of those vendors have previously worked with Sprout, some with the farmers market and others with local businesses. In all, VonBerge said there are between 30 - 35 vendors and a handful of food trucks already signed up.

There will also be a blacksmith demonstration, games and face painting for the kids, hot air balloons, classic cars and much more.

VonBerge said she got the idea a few years ago when she attended the Wright County Swap Meet.

“The concept was really cool,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is something we could do in Little Falls.’ It’s a way to bring the community together to check out the event while incorporating everything that we have in Little Falls.”

Market and Music on the Mississippi will include Great River Arts’ Art in the Park from 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., followed from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. by the Music on the Mississippi series.

VonBerge said the LFCVB received a New Event Grant from Explore Minnesota to help fund the event. It even caught the eye of out-going Explore Minnesota Executive Director John Edman, who is set to retire, June 3 after 21 years of service to the state.

VonBerge said, after speaking with Little Falls Granite Works Owner Scott Nagel, there are plans to decorate its well-known roadside attraction, The Traveler, with a guitar and sunglasses to promote the events. Edman told VonBerge he planned to make a trip to Little Falls for an Explore Minnesota photo when it is ready.

“As a Visitors Bureau, this is a community gathering piece, and the tourism part of it later on could be really exciting,” VonBerge said.

“We want tourists who normally would not stop in Little Falls on purpose to see that, kind of, quirky piece outside of town and see there’s an event that goes with it,” she continued, referring to The Traveler.

As part of that tourism piece, the LFCVB will also collect the data on the ZIP codes from where each guest is coming. That will not only be a tangible way to show the regional impact Market and Music on the Mississippi has on central Minnesota tourism, it will also open the door for more grants and possible funding opportunities down the road.

One other new program, the Charmed Bike Ride, is also tied in with the Market and Music on the Mississippi. All school kids in Little Falls received a flyer with a map to local businesses and organizations. As they ride their bikes around town this summer, they can stop into each and ask for a charm. Once they have collected them all, at the last Market and Music on the Mississippi, they will be eligible to win a new bicycle from Touright Bicycle Shop.

Summer is here, and Market and Music on the Mississippi will provide a jumpstart to what VonBerge said will be a series of events associated with each season. To find out what happens next, however, she said everyone has to “watch and find out.”

“Our job is putting things like this in our community for people to get together,” VonBerge said. “It enhances our way of life.”

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