|From the Headwaters
to the Delta, Mississippi River people love
to celebrate their connections to the River.
Communities may have different ways of
showing their connection to the River, but
this summer's crop of festivals shares one
thing - the tie between local people, the
River and their lives.
the Headwaters in Itasca County, Minnesota,
they don't just celebrate once. From Tall Timber Days to the White Oak Rendezvous to the Mississippi Melodie Showboat,
entertainment, history, tradition and, of
course, local crafts highlight both a past
way of life and the present.
Moving south, St. Paul, Minnesota boasts the Great River Gathering which took place in May. Sponsored by the St. Paul Riverfront Corporation,
over 100 organizations exhibited and more than
1,000 people gathered in what is a decidedly
robust celebration of the Riverfront's
contribution to that city's economy and
civic vibrancy. The event attracts business
and government leaders along with exhibitors
that range from the Big River
Magazine to the National
Park Service. Last year's speaker
touched the largely urban audience by tying
his experience as a Hmong immigrant to the
two rivers in his life: the Mekong and the
Mississippi, which he called "River of
Dreams" for the hope it means to new people
in the community.
entirely different festival of the River
takes place in June in Dubuque, Iowa. This
year, on the second weekend in June, the
banks of the Mississippi River will explode
with live bands, including Three Dog Night
in America's River Tent.
Monster truck rides, dog competitions, races
and non-stop entertainment will highlight
the Port of Dubuque's celebration of its
next weekend and farther down the River, Grafton, Illinois holds
the Great Rivers Towboat Festival complete with music, rope throwing contests,
children's activities, and historic displays
by the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers. Of
course there will be a crawfish and shrimp
boil, complete with proper eating
demonstrations. This community celebration
focuses on the transportation and commercial
heritage the River holds for this section of
the River, the confluence.
Moving south on the Mississippi River, you
discover that community celebrations start
earlier in the year. For instance, Memphis already held
its Beale Street Music Festival in late April and early May. For three days,
blues, rock, gospel and R&B bands hit four
stages on 33 acres overlooking the
Mississippi River. This event not only
celebrates River heritage, it celebrates
today's version of deep river sound.
of course New Orleans would
celebrate both jazz and one of its legendary
folk and music heroes by turning out for the Satchmo Summer Festival in August. It's uniquely a New Orleans event
and this year, Aug. 5 through 8, it
celebrates 10 years of art and jazz in its
tribute to Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong.
These are just a few of the ways and places
that celebrate their connection to the
Mississippi River. There are probably
hundreds more each year. What they all have
in common is the River. What they all share
is an urge to come to the River and be
beside it while they see friends and
celebrate its part in their lives. For some
it is a source of beauty and tranquility.
For others it is the community's economic
life blood. One thing is sure. The
Mississippi River has drawn them for years
and is likely to continue for years to come.