Ask residents what words come to mind when they think of “Hastings, Minnesota,” and you might hear a few frontrunners: Historic. Friendly. Scenic. It’s true; the town of 22,000 on the Mississippi, Vermillion and St. Croix rivers is well-known for being all of those things.
But this year, you might hear a few more…less conventional terms: Creative. Artist-friendly. And maybe even….Neon?
With the newly-completed Highway 61 bridge, a downtown redevelopment plan recently approved, and a burgeoning theater and arts community, Hastings has a new energy that blends the community’s historic charm with the anticipation of a bright future. And nowhere was this energy more evident than at Rivertown Days, the town’s annual celebration.
You might even say it was “glowing.”
Yes, you read that correctly. 2014 marked the first year that the traditional Hastings River Run was revamped as the Glow Run and the official kickoff to the late-July Rivertown Days extravaganza. With a 2K fun run, 8K race, food trucks, children’s obstacle courses, face-painting, and a DJ, the Glow Run attracted a wider audience than the typical road race. Top of the List staffer Audrey Flack couldn’t resist bringing her family to enjoy the festivities—and from the look of things, they enjoyed themselves!
Family and Kids’ Activities
As a mom of two young boys under three, Flack sought out events suited to short attentions spans—and she wasn’t disappointed. “Sometimes I think twice about going to large events with kids this young because it’s so difficult to keep them safe and entertained,” she said. “But I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get around Rivertown Days.”
Most children’s and child-friendly events centered in Jaycee Park, which lines the Mississippi River and offers a scenic view of the town’s new bridge—and a welcome breeze. A special performance by the Emmy-award-winning Zinghoppers was the highlight of the boys’ trip—rivaled only by the ongoing DockDogs Northern Stars competition!
Flack’s boys had so much fun, they couldn’t stay awake for the multitude of other family-friendly options at the park, including carnival rides, a BMX and skateboard stunt show, demonstrations from the Hastings Police Department’s K-9 Unit, waterski shows from the Shockwaves, and other children’s activities—all on the list for next year!
Painting the Town
Even while celebrating the new, Hastings hasn’t forgotten its rich history. With 63 nationally-recognized historic buildings and a bustling downtown district, Hastings blends the old and new in creative ways—and Rivertown Days is no exception. Levee Park, adjacent to the river and downtown, hosts an artists’ bazaar where passerby reflect on a riverside Veterans’ memorial and purchase goods from local artists. Downtown’s many clothing, gift, and specialty stops hold epic Sidewalk Sales, while bars and restaurants bring live music to the streets:
The annual Rivertown Days parade is an extravaganza of classic cars, local businesses and bands—and, of course, candy and treats for the kids!
Flack’s advice? “Set up camp early!” she said. “Preferably somewhere shaded!”
Lest you think that Rivertown Days is just for kids, Flack is quick to note the many activities she “would have loved to attend, but just weren’t feasible for the toddler set!” A riverside beer and wine garden, concert by country super group Hitchville, and Gal Pal Soiree were only some of the festivities best left to the adults.
“Next year,” Flack said, “We’re getting a sitter!”