West St. Paul Days 2019


West St. Paul Days 2019 - A Special Section published by Lillie Suburban Newspapers
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‘Giddy on Up’ and celebrate West St. Paul Days

With the snow officially gone and temperatures rising, not only does it mean Minnesota has survived another winter, but summer festival season is here. 

The first festival in the area is near — Celebrate West St. Paul Days is ready for another year.

Running Thursday through Sunday, May 16 to 19, at various spots in the city, West St. Paul Days President Dave Wenda says the event is the first of the area summertime festivals.

“Which is good,” he says, “because we aren’t competing against anybody, so we get a lot more of the other cities coming here.”

Jessi Keller, royalty director and festival board secretary, says this year’s theme — “Giddy on Up to West St. Paul Days” — comes from the connection between the city and the Winter Carnival West Winds. 

“We’ve tried to build a real relationship with the West Wind organization, and they are Western themed,” Keller says. “We thought it would be a nice time to do a Western theme again.”


Act like a kid

There’s lots going on at the carnival — food, photos, bouncy houses and more — and it’s open the run of the festival, Thursday from 3 to 10 p.m., Friday from 3 to 11 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., at Signal Hills Shopping Center, 1201 S. Robert St.

Ticket deals for carnival rides include a Saturday rate of $1 each or 25 tickets for $20; or on Friday and Sunday, pay $20 for unlimited rides. 

Stop by Dunham’s, 173 Lothenbach Ave., on Friday, May 17, for the street dance. The dancing begins at 7 p.m., and The Grain Belters and Friends will be playing. This year’s dance is free. 


Still a Grand Parade, but with a new venue

This year’s parade will have a little bit of a different look, as it changes routes. Minnesota’s ever-reliable construction season has moved the parade. 

“There was some anticipated construction on our normal parade route,” Keller points out.

Starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, the parade will travel down Charlton Street from Wentworth Avenue to Harmon Park. There will be a pre-parade reception at 11 a.m. at Garlough Elementary School, 1740 Charlton St.


A trio of grandness

This year’s parade grand marshal is Tim Nowak, the head of charitable gambling for the South Robert Street Business Association. 

He owned Nowak’s Liquor for 22 years with his brother, Dave, before selling the shop in 2001. As a business owner in West St. Paul, Nowak became a member of the South Robert Street Business Association, and its gambling manager, in 1990. The organization has grown and in the last six years has donated more than $900,000 to various groups in the community.

“He was chosen because he has been an excellent partner to West St. Paul Days, in helping us work with the South Robert Street Business Association to run some of their meat raffles for them,” Keller says, adding the association donates money directly to keep the festival going.

Nowak is also a member of the St. Matthew’s Men’s Club and the West St. Paul Challenger American Legion Post 521.

He says he was surprised to be selected as the grand marshal for this year’s parade, which — having lived and worked in the city — is his favorite part of Celebrate West St. Paul Days. When he owned the liquor store, Nowak says he would be a part of the parade, driving a car to promote his business and to hand out candy to kids.

He says he hasn’t seen the parade recently because of helping set up the food booth at the Harmon Park event, pointing out it’ll be fun to participate again.

“This year, riding in the parade — my granddaughter’s probably going to ride with me,” Nowak says.

There are two celebrity grand marshals this year — Alex Keller and Mina Hunter-Baltes — who underscore the connection between Celebrate West St. Paul Days and the St. Paul Winter Carnival. 

Keller was born into West St. Paul Days and Winter Carnival royalty. His mother is a former Miss West St. Paul and Queen of the Snows, and his father was in the King’s Guard in 1973, and was captain in 1979. Keller is the 2019 Captain of the King’s Guard. He’s also helped out with the Celebrate West St. Paul Days festival for many years with his wife, Jessi.

Hunter-Baltes is a 2019 Winter Carnival West Wind Guard and is sponsored by Celebrate West St. Paul Days. She was a Celebrate West St. Paul Days princess in 2012. She studied chemistry and biology and looks forward to studying architecture in the future.

Wenda notes the two have clocked lots of volunteer hours in the run up to the Grand Parade, as well as through their Winter Carnival-related responsibilities.

“I made sure they get a break here. They don’t have to walk this parade. They’re going to be driven in a car,” says Wenda. “I said ‘This is probably the only parade you don’t get to walk in.’”


The fun continues

The Harmon Park Festival is back this year for Saturday, May 18, from 2 to 10 p.m. Done in partnership with the South Robert Street Business Association and the City of West St. Paul, there will be a variety of activities for all to enjoy after the parade. 

Stop by the park at 230 Bernard St. W. from 2 to 5 p.m. for some bingo, sponsored by the business association. Also at the festival from 2 to 5 p.m., the City of West St. Paul will be hosting its open house.

The DJ will be back again from 6 to 9 p.m.

Keller says it was decided to have the city open house, which is traditionally on a Wednesday, happen in conjunction with the Harmon Park Festival to have as many people as possible enjoy the activities on Saturday.

Once again there will be beer, wine and pull tabs for those of age, and concessions will be available courtesy of St. Matthew’s Mens Club and the 5-8 Club. 

There will be a display for kids to learn about the community and how to help keep their neighborhood safe, put on by the city. It will include a fire truck and police car for kids of all ages to check out. 

The night will end with a fireworks display at 9:15 p.m., sponsored by the South Robert Street Business Association. 


And the barn will rock

Following the Grand Parade on Saturday, May 18, head to Dodge Nature Center, 1702 Charlton St., for the annual Rock the Barn Festival. Round up the entire family for Dodge’s yearly farm and music festival. 

From 3 to 7 p.m., join a tour of the barn where you’ll meet live animals up close. Enjoy live music mixed with activities like face painting, raffles and more. Your child will get to experience a day of farm life by taking part in farm chores and old-fashioned games. Get early bird special ticket pricing by buying before noon on Friday, May 17 — early tickets are $6 per person. Tickets at the gate are $8. This event is free for kids 2 and younger.

Proceeds from the event support Dodge Nature Center preschool scholarships. For more information go to www.dodgenaturecenter.org or call 651-455-4531.


A new royal court

The royalty program is back this year. The coronation of new royalty will close the festival on Sunday, May 19, from 1 to 4 p.m., at St. Croix Lutheran High School, 1200 Oakdale Ave. 

There will be snacks and beverages following the program, and no RSVP is needed. Entry is $5, or free with a Celebrate West St. Paul Days button.

Keller says the year off was used to build interest in the program, adding some folks might not understand how such ambassador programs work.

“They’re not beauty pageants. They’re scholarship programs. We’re helping to build strong leaders for the future,” she says, adding the biggest takeaway is making kids realize the power of volunteerism by getting them out into the community. 

“Trying to get that message out — that’s what this is really about. It’s not about the crown or the dress,” Keller says. “It has to do with you simply wanting to be a good ambassador for your community and to be out there doing good things.”

Keller says Celebrate West St. Paul Days organizers are always looking for volunteers and suggestions on how to make the festival better. There are board meetings every month to which the public is invited.


For a full list of events and more information go to www.celebrateweststpaul.org.


Click here for more information on the many West St. Paul Days activities!


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