For 23 consecutive years, Saint Peter has held the Rock Bend Folk Festival in Minnesota Square Park. Full of live music, activities, delicious food, and sights to see, the festival is an excellent way to end the summer. Usually about 8,000 people turn out to attend this free event.
The festival kicked off at noon on Saturday Sept. 7 and went through the weekend. This year the festival featured over twenty different performing artists between two stages. While the majority of them were from Minnesota, several artists traveled across the nation to play at the festival.
With a stadium-sized stage and a smaller stage, the festival gave the audience a lot of choices when it comes to deciding who to listen to. Between the two stages one could find music from jazz to country.
Dawn Devans, the Festival’s coordinator for the past 23 years was pleased with how the event has progressed and fondly reflected on its humble beginnings.
“A friend of ours got together a group of four of us for coffee at the co-op and said ‘hey I have an idea for something in the park, do you want to be part of it?’ We each threw in $10 and 23 years later here we are,“ Devans said.
Two bands stood out among the rest on the small stage. The first, the Gypsy Lumberjacks, featured an electric violinist, drummer, acoustic guitarist, accordionist, and a bassist. The band played a variety of music. Given the band’s deep and various range of sounds, the audience itself was into the performance. With an audience of over 200 for both performances, people were dancing, clapping, and singing along with the band. During their performance, the Gypsy Lumberjacks did a long freestyle jam that sounded just as interesting as any of their other songs. Once they had finished, the audience asked for an encore.
“We ran out of songs to play, three songs ago, but we’ll play another song for you,” lead singer of the Gypsy Lumberjacks said.
The next band to perform on stage arrived in suits and a dress. Introduced to the audience as George Cole, the band was made up four members. Originating in San Francisco, the guitarist was from France, their own violinist was from Mankato, and their bassist was from New York. The lead singer, George Cole is also known as the guitar instructor for Billy Joel Armstrong and Mike Dirnt before they formed Green Day. Their music being considered gypsy jazz/uptown swing, the band’s music sounded like it came straight out of the pages of The Great Gatsby. The band sang about New York, 5th Avenue, ex-girlfriends, and love. This was their first time in Saint Peter and they took to the stage twice on Saturday.
The audience seemed to be having fun throughout the entire two days and so were the Gusties who were in attendance.
“Being this is the first time I have been in Saint Peter, it was really fun to see a combination of people from town having a great time,” First-Year Robbie Bragg said.
A group of students at Gustavus who have gone to the festival for the past four years conveyed insight into why this festival is so special.
“Folk music is something that I haven’t been exposed to very much, so I like listening to it because it’s new and different,” Senior Erin Tollefson said.
First-Year Thomas Rebers really enjoyed the variety carried throughout the entire festival.
“It wasn’t just twenty artists playing the same music, there was wide range of great musicians,“ Rebers said.
It’s events like the Rock Bend Folk Festival that really make Saint Peter stand out from your average college town. Made up of fellow residents, college students, professors, performers, and tourists, the festival was an excellent way to spend one’s weekend. Physics Professor Steve Mellema has gone to the festival every year since it’s started, has some advice for those who will be here next year.
“Next year students should wander down because they’ll love it,” Mellema advised.
With so many things to see and do, the Rock Bend Folk Festival gives everyone the opportunity to go out and have a great weekend.