| There's something about rivers in the summertime, and the Mississippi River is no exception. As we wade into the warmth of the summer, Mississippi River communities are planning annual - and sometimes weekly - events and celebrations taking advantage of their residents' and visitors' attraction to America's great waterway. |
Let's start at the top. Close to Deer River, Minnesota, several miles south of the Mississippi River's headwaters in Lake Itasca, an annual reenactment of 15th-to-17th century fur trading life takes place the first weekend of August. The White Oak Rendezvous is filled with music, crafts and authentic re-enactors who bring to life Mississippi River explorers. There's plenty of fun for young and old alike.
Still in Minnesota, but 150 miles farther south, St. Paul, Minnesota starts their celebration of the Mississippi River early. May 14th is the 26th annual Great River Gathering where all things Mississippi River and Minnesota come together in celebratory fashion. Both a riparian rite of spring and a civic pride celebration, the Gathering features river heroes, historians and public officials, as well as river citizens, for an evening of inspiration and engagement.
Moving on down the river, Dubuque hosts America's River Festival June 12 and 13. The ARF is non-stop country and rock music performances for two days and this year features a brewfest of craft beers. Adding to the draw is Dubuque's National Mississippi River Aquarium and Museum where all aspects of the Mississippi River are explained and displayed year-round in a Smithsonian-partnered exhibit on the historic riverfront.
On July 25, you can experience what it's like to be a riverboat captain or worker at the Grafton, Illinois annual Towboat Festival. This festival is not only for the community, but also for those among us who've watched the barges being artfully powered up and down the river and dreamed of someday getting to experience it for real. Music, food and community spirit accompany the towboat.
Spring comes earlier to the lower Mississippi River so it's no surprise that the Beale St. Music Festival is May 1-3. If you've never been to Memphis and seen Beale St. Landing or the Mud Island model of the Mississippi River, the Music Festival could be a good excuse to do it all. With dozens of bands and the country's renowned barbecue ribs, this is a tempting way to start celebrating Americana on the Mississippi River.
And what could be more quintessential Mississippi River than Louis Armstrong in New Orleans? The Satchmo Summerfest 2015 will be held July 30 - Aug. 1 at the Louisiana State Museum's Old U.S. Mint location and is free and open to the public. Not too far from the Mississippi River, this annual event focuses on contemporary and traditional jazz, as well as brass bands. Its "Red Bean Alley" features some of New Orleans renowned restaurants.
Take the Great River Road to Mississippi River Summer Festivals
If you're a road-trip fan, the Mississippi River has the ultimate road trip stretching from its headwaters to the Gulf. But you don't have to take the whole thing.
Neatly connecting existing highways, roads and byways, the Great River Road connects these summer festivals and a lot of other destinations as it winds its way along or near America's great waterway.
In many of these locations you'll find Mississippi River Trails allowing you to ride to your destination. You'll find maps at local tourist information centers and on the Internet at either of the links above.
LMR Assessment Points To Public Access Needs
Since outdoor recreation and tourism produces nearly $17 billion annually in the U.S. and creates about 240,000 jobs, the USACE and The Nature Conservancy teamed up to study the implications and needs for the seven-state Lower Mississippi River region. The nearly 45-page document identifies eight needs for the river communities to take advantage of the potential for tourism: boat ramps, bike trails, outfitter/guide services, lodging and dining, parks and vistas, interpretation, riverboat landings and marketing. Each of theses needed services is documented and the report offers insights into the current situation. To read the report, click here.
A Plug for The National Dialogue
The most recent America's Waterway blog outlines the need to start the discussion for a whole Mississippi River vision and goals. In light of the Lower Mississippi River report above and rapidly expanding interest in traveling the great waterway, we make the case for starting the conversation now.