River City Revue’s Maiden Voyage
A new program on the Mississippi River debuted on July 18 in downtown St. Paul. A sold out crowd gathered on the Jonathan Padelford riverboat to attend something called “River City Revue.” We spent the day racing around gathering art, making activities, giving media interviews, worrying about the weather and fielding calls from people trying to find tickets. Was this going to work?
Last year, the Mississippi River Fund helped to sponsor the “Mississippi Megalops” event as part of Northern Spark. I was so impressed with the programming that was developed by Works Progressthat I asked how we could turn the event into a program. I had long been looking for opportunities to connect grown-ups with the National Park and the Twin Cities has a great art scene. Thus, “River City Revue” was born—a partnership program led by the Mississippi River Fund, Works Progress, the National Park Service and Padelford Riverboats.
The rain held off and once we got going, I was able to settle in and enjoy the presenters. I was totally engaged with the presenters who mixed history, water quality, and sculpture into 10 minute presentations. NPS Park Ranger Dan Dressler led the audience through a brief history of beer making on the river. St. Paul’s caves allowed German immigrants to create their special lager-style beer. Pig’s Eye Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager Larry Rognacki gave a fascinating talk on waste-water treatment in the Twin Cities and its impact on the Mississippi. Someone in the audience dared to ask, “can we swim in it?” YES you can, according to Larry.
The last formal speaker with Aaron Dysart, a local sculptor who explored our relationship to the river by creating a 600 pound boat made out of soap. Aaron spoke about people who give the “ick” response describing the river. I completely resonated with his experience as I’m often in the position of convincing people that the river really isn’t that dirty. Is it a Minnesota thing to think lakes are clean and rivers are dirty? Why do people swim and fish in Lake Pepin but not the rest of the river? Is it because the word “lake” is in it?
Frankly, I’ve been blown away by the response to the cruises and I am excited hear from the presenters and listen to the Prairie Fire Lady Choir on Wednesday night. What will happen next year? I would love to hear from people about what they want to see from a program like this. We want to create new pathways for people to bond with the river. River City Revue could be our ticket.