Squidfest-New Riverfront Festival Brings Visitors, Shuts Down Main Street

Dani Prados
Granite Falls Artist in Residence

New Riverfront Festival Brings Visitors, Shuts Down Main Street

Like most surprisingly good late night or Sunday afternoon recipes, it all started with a crazy idea. 

Sometime in January, stirring from the depths of a Covid-laden winter on the frozen prairie, the grateful desire to celebrate and share the extraordinary wealth of this community took root in the rather disturbingly nutty mind of a particularly nutty artist, who had spent the fall listening. The richness of talent, of connection, of communal spirit, of natural bounty, and of neighborly kindness here is impossible to deny, and the roots grew like one of those time-lapse videos you can’t look away from… they busted out of too-small spaces, sprouted across the river, leapt from dam to bridge to City Hall, and gathered minds and hearts in their ever-expanding arms. 

So this Saturday, September 18th, Granite Falls will host the nation’s first PRAIRIE SQUIDFEST - the only SquidFest east of California - together with the Legion’s 2nd Annual RibFest. Radio spots and Explore Minnesota outreach have been statewide for the last month, and Granite expects to have quite a few guests traveling to experience this unique festival celebrating art & community, and the art of community. 

SquidFest planning has been led by a group of committed volunteers from various backgrounds, working together to highlight Granite as the regional hotspot it continues to grow a reputation as. Nicknamed the “Todd Squad,” in honor of the festival’s namesake, this planning committee has been meeting weekly or bi-weekly since February to build out a full day of art, live music, showcase opportunities for local businesses and community members, kids activities, games, performances, food, drinks, a parade, and to connect as many parts of the community as possible.

The festival is being funded through a grant won earlier in the year on behalf of the City, a small dedicated project budget, and the generous contributions of local organizations - including FM Bank, Citizens Bank, Kiwanis, the Lions, GFRR, the CVB, Bluenose Gopher Public House, Almich’s, the Granite Area Arts Council, and in-kind contributions from the Legion, Western Fest and Lee-Mar Ranch. 

Organizing such an undertaking has brought new friendships as well as logistical puzzles - as #ToddSquad member Nicole Zempel said, “I have never had so much fun in a meeting before, and getting to know some people I didn’t realize were so awesome… I look forward to seeing this crew every time!” Zempel is part of the Green Team; a subsect of the Squad devoted to keeping the festival green, the community clean, and supporting sustainable environmental practices. The Green Team meets in addition to and outside of Squad duties, and has already decided that it will continue into the future working on initiatives long past SquidFest. 

Building this new festivals’ infrastructure meant collaboration with the hardworking Police Department, Public Works, Electrical, Parks, City Hall - both Council and employees (it helps that several volunteer Squad members work at City Hall, including City Manager Crystal Johnson and City Clerk Christine Kleven), the County highway department, and various local businesses. Everyone has put in extra time and energy to ensure SquidFest’s success. 

Main Street will be shut down, or pedestrian-only, on the day, and the morning’s parade will divert traffic for a brief spell as well (see the map for the parade route). Festival parking will be available at YME and the baseball field, with senior parking available by the library. 


SquidFest/RibFest events as follows: 

  • 10:30 am PARADE (from the KCC down 5th, down Main Street, up 9th, and back over to the KCC.
  • 11 am ON: Live Music (see the website for the line up - there are 8 bands!), Kids Activities, Art, Vendor and Community booths, Food, Beverages, 
  • 12:30 pm Steve Virnig Commemorative Disc Golf Tournament (1st Place $500)
  • 3pm Pop Up Artist Talk & community collage at the Makers on the Minnesota Gallery
  • 4 pm Ribs start cooking!
  • 5 pm Mainstage goes dark, Bluenose Gopher Stage takes over for 90 min
  • 6:30 pm Mainstage Show, kicking off with a special performance by Granite’s Memory Choir. 
  • 8 pm Legion Stage - Canyon Cowboys (playing earlier in the day on the Mainstage)
  • MIDNIGHT - clean up and say hi to the new day!

The tagline of the festival is “What is yOUR art?” Individual community members and local businesses and organizations are encouraged to sign up for booth space to share their “art” - whether that art is painting, music, growing tomatoes, quilting, break making, raising children, community service, or just being kind. We all have an art - something we’re passionate about, that we devote time and energy to - and those are what bind a community together, and keep it rich. All bands and participants have strong relationships to the Minnesota River Valley. SquidFest is celebrating just that. 

“It’s a real ‘Stone Soup’ situation,” said local artist Dani Prados, also on the #ToddSquad. “Where all you start with with is an idea, and the impulse to share, and you light a small fire. For a long time nothing happens… then someone brings an onion. And you have a conversation. And by sunset, the whole town is gathered together, each having contributed, all sharing this delicious soup and laughing.” 

SquidFest will be serving actual Stone Soup, as it happens… ALL community members are encouraged to bring something to chuck into it - vegetables, meat, spices… Squad member Andy Holt will be doing the actual cooking, with a base of homemade stocks, and stone soup donations will go towards the local Food Shelf. 

So come out, support and celebrate your community, and ask yourself, “What is MY art?”

Festival info, map, and booth, parade and volunteer sign up opportunities at www.prairiesquidfest.com. Rain contingency plan inside the Legion.