FROM DEAFENING MUSIC that bounced between historic buildings along Faribault’s Central Avenue, to the savory taste and tantalizing, smokey smell of barbecued meat to the cheers of onlookers when a local celebrity plunged into the dunk tank to the clink of washers against asphalt in the washer tournament to human faces morphing, via paint, into animal faces, offerings at the fourth annual Blue Collar BBQ & Arts Fest in Faribault drew crowds, and smiles, on a picture perfect Saturday.
Coordinated by the Paradise Center for the Arts, the 13-hour free festival focused on bringing people into the historic downtown to enjoy/participate in the arts, music, food, a BBQ and homemade brew competition, and more.
Retail stores like The Crafty Maven, 212 Central Avenue, at the heart of the arts and crafts fair and kids’ activities, expected an increase in business with an influx of an anticipated 5,000 people into the downtown for the festival. And that’s part of the plan, to celebrate downtown businesses, many of them event supporters. Other businesses in the community also sponsored parts of the festival.
I arrived late morning and wandered for several hours past vendors—wishing I could sample the meat smoking in BBQ contestants’ grills; admiring the artistic creations of artists and a gifted face painter; ducking into the Paradise Center for the Arts to photograph the current art show, Car pARTS; steering mostly clear of the north end of the 300 block of Central because I couldn’t tolerate the volume of the live band music; trying a vendor’s delicious BBQed meat trio sampler that was way overpriced for the quantity (plus, no forks included); and, finally, stopping at Pawn Minnesota and then a Somali clothing shop on my way to the car.
Did the festival accomplish for me what I expected? Yes. I was entertained, although I would have appreciated a much lower volume on the music. Ditto for the price on the meat sampler. And I would have liked access to the home brew competition, which was tucked into the Paradise somewhere.
But all in all, the festival provided a fun way to while away part of a Saturday. And, for those downtown business owners who hoped the event would draw shoppers into stores, it worked for me. I’d never been into the pawn store and wasn’t even aware of the Somali shop or another ethnic business across the street (which wasn’t open).
If you’re from Faribault, I hope you took time on Saturday to attend the Blue Collar BBQ & Arts Fest and appreciate what we have, right here in our own community.
© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling