Apr 5, 2024 - News

After shakeup, Minneapolis still searching for new hosts to organize popular Open Streets events

A group of people at a street fest taking place against the backdrop of a city skyline

A previous Open Streets event. Photo: Nordy Photography via Open Streets

Minneapolis is struggling to attract organizers for the popular Open Streets festival series, meaning there could be only three fairs this year — down from five events last year.

Why it matters: The free street fairs have previously been smash-hit successes in summer and early fall, drawing as many as 50,000 people in a weekend.

The latest: Longtime organizers at Our Streets Minneapolis — who announced Thursday they will not be involved at all this year — fear the city is setting up new hosts for failure.

What they're saying: Executive director José Antonio Zayas Cabán told Axios that Our Streets would usually begin planning in October, but "this year, the work has basically not started and it's already April."

The other side: "The city is keeping its commitment to ensuring Open Streets events continue," Andrew Ballard, the city's enterprise events manager, said in a statement. "We are confident in all three vendor proposals and their ability to execute Open Streets events this year."

Catch up quick: Until recently, Our Streets organized a half-dozen of the street fairs each year on the city's behalf essentially for free, though the city has chipped in for trash collection, police services and portable toilets.

  • Our Streets covered event expenses with sponsorships and charging fees to the vendors selling food or crafts, but Zayas Cabán says the series never made money for his organization — which separately lobbies city hall on biking and pedestrian issues.

Friction point: Last year, the city cut ties with Our Streets after it became clear the nonprofit was serious about its request for an $851,700 budget for Open Streets events that the city wasn't willing to provide.

  • Zayas Cabán called Our Streets' relationship with the city "exploitative," saying that running such large events for free wasn't sustainable long-term.

City officials regrouped, budgeting $250,000 for five Open Streets events in 2024. After a bidding process, the city found organizers for three events: on Lyndale Avenue, West Broadway and Nicollet Avenue.

  • The city initially selected Our Streets to run the Franklin Avenue event, but the nonprofit pulled out when the city declined to increase the $50,000 organizer budget.
  • Nobody submitted a bid for the Central Avenue event, a city spokesperson said.

What's next: Minneapolis will issue a new call for organizations to host Open Streets Central and Franklin events.

  • The city council will soon vote on contracts for the three new vendors: the Uptown Association, the West Broadway Coalition, and the Lyndale Neighborhood Association.

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