It was nearly two years ago when Shane Bauer, owner of the local business Laughingstock Design, found himself sitting at a presentation sponsored by Community Action Duluth. As he listened to a speech about equality given by Xavier Bell, the nonprofit’s director of community engagement, Bauer started to consider how he could get involved in the community through volunteer work.
“As a business owner, you always want to do something to give back to the community,” said Bauer, whose business on West Superior Street sells apparel with messages that he designs himself. “Everyone knows about environmental and economic stability in the community, but it’s all about social sustainability. We need to get along first before the other two will work.”
This presentation is what inspired Bauer to start the Twin Ports Bridge Festival, a local music festival that has been held in Bayfront Festival Park since 2011, with Xavier Bell being one of the speakers at the first festival. This year's festival, which will take place Saturday, July 6, will again raise money that will be brought back into the community, Bauer said.
"We're a grassroots community event because we're put on by local community organizations," said Bauer, of festival organizers who are working to make the festival an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit. "Like one of our performers for this year, Cloud Cult, says, that energy you put out there resonates eternally, goes out there, and comes back."
Last year, festival organizers got the opportunity to fulfill this mission when the flood took place 11 days before the festival was scheduled. In order to help the community come together, organizers decided to add a second day called "Stand for Humanity" to the festival, with all of the funds raised from that day being donated to the United Way for flood relief.
Bauer said Trampled by Turtles and The Jayhawks were willing to perform during the festival's second day and that over $25,000 was raised for flood relief. He added that attendance at the second annual festival was around 3,000, which was double that of the first festival.
Below is a video from the second day of the 2012 Twin Ports Bridge Festival, produced by Duluth Outdoors. Mayor Don Ness discussed the importance of raising money for flood relief in the Twin Ports during this time.
For the 2012 festival, Bauer said organizers added another stage in Bayfront so more performers could be invited to the event and speakers could be scheduled throughout the afternoon. He added that this, along with the doubling of attendance from the previous year, is what really pushed organizers to make this year's festival even better.
"The theme this year of 'Love 2013' is an invitation for the community to unite in our humanity in appreciation of Lake Superior," said Erin DeWitt, an event coordinator and owner of Conscious Living, which hosts healing workshops in Duluth. "We want to show our love for Lake Superior because she knows no separation, no race, no color, no gender. She has no bias."
DeWitt said that in order to show the theme of shared humanity, those attending the event are invited to bring water from places that are important to them. At the entrance to the festival is a water basin that all of the water brought by attendees can be combined, and when leaving, people can bring some of the water home with them.
"It's charged water with a living essence, carrying a vibration," DeWitt said. "It shows that we can change how our brains work to align us to become more loving to one another, to the planet, and to the beings that we share the planet with."
In order to put on such a large event, organizers seek sponsorships from businesses throughout the Twin Ports. At the festival, businesses and vendors are able to set up booths to show what their company does and how they are working to become more sustainable within the community.
The Lake Superior Binational Forum will also be at this year's festival to encourage those attending to commit to doing one act in the next year that will support Lake Superior. DeWitt said an idea that will presented to attendees is to take part in the Great Lakes Aquarium beach sweep this summer.
Set for July, this year's festival will feature artists that help share the message of love and uniting through shared humanity, DeWitt said. Performers at this year's festival include The Kingston Trio, Cloud Cult, Mason Jennings, The Hunts, Monkey Mind Pirates Family Yoga Party, Saint Anyway, batteryboy, Jason Wussow & Friends, Snobarn, and Breanne Marie.
"Cloud Cult really has a great message of the physicists and mysticists and agreeing that we are made of love," DeWitt said. "It gives us a new way to talk about it and to celebrate that you are just an extension of me."
The 2013 Twin Ports Bridge Festival's theme "Love 2013" seeks to show this idea of shared humanity, DeWitt said. Below, festival organizers preview this summer's festival and what they hope to accomplish with the theme they have chosen.
The group of local business owners who help organize the festival have already been hard at work preparing for this year's event, meeting every Thursday morning to plan. With two volunteer coordinators, the group is always looking for people to help out the day of the event, and those looking to volunteer can email email@example.com.
"Duluth's brand is sort of emerging out of this event because business owners often say that Duluth questions who we are and what we want to be," DeWitt said. "We are about the lake and love, and there's so many sustainable things here. The festival is all about reconnecting and bringing us together."
Tickets for the festival are being pre-sold at a reduced rate if purchased before May 31 or before 2,000 have been sold.
Reduced-rate costs are $25 for general admission, $5 for children 12 and under, or $50 for a family. Regular ticket costs are $35 for general admission, $10 for children, or $65 for a family.