Thursday, May 13, 2010

Greetings from Minneapolis, MN!

This week, Alonso visited Vanessa in Minnesota.

Alonso arrived in Minneapolis with much excitement - the annual May Day Parade and Festival was about to begin!

Every year, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre ( put on this amazing event - my favorite in Minneapolis by far. 50,000 people attend, dancing, playing instruments, wearing flower garlands, pulling wagons with children or their pets in tow. It's one of the largest May Day festivals in the country - and for good reason. After surviving a Minnesota winter, everyone wants to celebrate spring! Bloomington Avenue explodes with creativity; huge community built floats and costumes and characters and performances come to life on route to Powderhorn Park.

He attended with my stuffed pal Felix the sloth - they became fast friends!

This fabulous owl lady was kind enough to pose with Alonso during the parade.

After the parade, the May Day Festival in Powderhorn Park commenced, with giant puppets reenacting the story of the parade. The story always ends the same, with Winter being laid to rest and the Sun brought across Powderhorn Lake on dragon boats to the sound of drums pounding. When it reaches the shore, the huge Tree of Life springs up to the cheers of the crowd, bestowing the gift of spring with thousands of viewers joining in singing "You Are My Sunshine". By this point, Alonso was too tired to pose for pictures and took a nap in the grass.

The next day, Alonso and I set out for The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center ( We didn't let the gray skies spoil our adventures.

Here, he played hide and seek in a giant ear and took a ride on 'Woodrow' by Deborah Butterfield.

Nothing, however, compared to seeing the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry. At first, he thought he could eat it!

The spoon was too heavy to lift however, so he was happy to simply pose with it.

The next leg of the adventure was themed by bridges. With the Mississippi River running through, Minneapolis has lots of bridges with great views.

First, we took the Washington Avenue Bridge on the University of Minnesota Campus, where I work, to catch a glimpse of the Frank Gehry designed Weisman Art Museum.

On the other side of the bridge on the opposite bank is a sadder site: the remains of the trusses of the 35W Bridge that collapsed in August 2007, twisted and rusting along the river, laid out in a configuration of the bridge when it was intact. The collapse had a huge impact on the entire city. I worked just a few blocks from here and fortunately don't know anyone who was personally affected by the collapse aside from those who saw the aftermath.

Alonso thought the view of the city skyline looked great from the bridge despite the clouds.

Next, we took the Stone Arch Bridge just over a mile up river to catch a glimpse of St. Anthony Falls. Here, Alonso posed with a photo of what the falls looked like in the past:

And here's how it looks today:

On our walk back to the car, we happened upon some large scale craftiness near the University of Minnesota Arts Quarter: a huge, knitted rock!

Finally, Alonso and I headed across the Hennepin Avenue Bridge to catch a glimpse of one of my favorite Minneapolis landmarks.

The Grain Belt Beer sign!

Standing proud on Nicollet Island since around 1940, this sign welcomes one and all to my neighborhood in Minneapolis, Northeast, or as the locals affectionately call it, 'Nordeast' Minneapolis. Grain Belt was brewed just blocks from where I live; now the old brewery is home to many artists! ( Nordeast boasts ornate Eastern European churches, crumbling mills and silos alongside a growing arts community that is now occupying many of the factory spaces that once provided jobs to the immigrants of the neighborhood.

Alonso took a break in Nordeast along the riverbank under a tree on our way to my home.

There, he and Felix relaxed with the new Grain Belt Nordeast beer, a homage to the part of the city that shaped the brewery's history.

Next Stop: California!

Thanks again to Vanessa for hosting Alonso! Make sure to check out her work: