With the long cold winters and short summers in Minnesota, the variety of cultures, and the steady appetite for anything outdoors, Minnesotans have learned how to celebrate life with a variety of unusual activities throughout the year. The following is a listing of some of the more unusual Festivals and Events that you’ll find year ’round in Minnesota.
- Chilly Open (Wayzata, MN)
The Chilly Open is an event celebrating the chilly Minnesota winters. This one day event includes golf on frozen Lake Minnetonka, where golfers play two nine hole courses using golf clubs and hockey sticks with tennis balls. Each year has a special theme that participants dress up for. There’s also a chili cook-off and a live band in the 19th Hole Tent.
- Fish House Parade (Aitkin, MN)
Day after Thanksgiving. No, we’re not talking a parade of just ordinary ice fish houses. The so-called “World Famous Fish House Parade” is a parade of ice houses decorated in a wacky and outrageous manner with the goal of being more outrageous (and humorous) than anyone else.
- Grand Celebration Pow Wow (Hinckley, MN)
July – This is the largest American Indian Pow Wow in the Midwest with over 1,200 dancers, drummers and singers from tribes all over the US and Canada. Visitors learn American Indian traditions, eat Indian food and can purchase Indian crafts.
- Grumpy Old Men Festival (Wabasha, MN)
February or March – Wabasha is the home of the movie “Grumpy Old Men” starring Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau. The Grumpy Old Men Festival includes an ice fishing contest, ice shack contest, frisbee games, golf tournaments on snow, bird watching, and topped off with a good old spaghetti dinner and dance.
- Icebox Days (International Falls, MN)
Celebrate the cold in the “Icebox of the Nation” – International Falls, MN. This annual four-day celebration is packed with events that include: frozen turkey bowling, snow sculpting, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in Voyageurs National Park, a polar plunge into Rainy Lake, snowmobile rides, and the famous “Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run”, a 10K & 5K race. This event has been featured on The Travel Channel, CBS TV, The Weather Channel, and MSNBC.
- Ice Fishing Extravaganza (Brainerd, MN)
Billed as the “World’s Largest Ice Fishing Contest”, this ice fishing contest attracts over 10,000 anglers who compete for over $150,000 in cash and prizes. There are over 20,000 holes drilled into the ice beforehand by volunteers. It takes place the third week of January on Gull Lake’s Hole in the Day Bay. This winter event generates over $1-million in revenue for area businesses and more than $200,000 for area charities annually.
- International Eelpout Festival (Walker, MN)
A festival celebrating one of the ugliest and most unusual behaving fishes in the world, the Eelpout. This fishing contest on Leech Lake attracts more than 10,000 people. Prizes are awarded for heaviest eelpout, most tonnage of eelpout caught by a single person, and most toonage caught by a team. There are also awards for the most lavish fish house or shelter.
- Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival (Moorhead, MN)
June – A Scandinavian event that features dancing, entertainment, booths and food celebrating the heritage of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The festival takes place at the Heritage Hjemkomst Center, home of the Viking ship which sailed from Minnesota to Norway in 1982.
- Polar Fest (Detroit Lakes, MN)
February – Enjoy frozen turkey bowling, an iced tee golf tournament, the “freeze your buns run”, a vintage snowmobile race, a “polar plunge,” and fireworks.
- Skyway Open (Minneapolis, MN)
Downtown Minneapolis is home to the worlds largest continuous network of skyways that connect one building to another. The skyway system spans 8 miles (13 km) connecting 69 blocks in downtown Minneapolis. The Skyway Open is a annual wintertime golf tournament featuring an 18-hole mini-golf tournament that winds through the skyway system. The course features golf holes that are professionally designed by leading Minneapolis-based architects and contractors.
- U. S. Pond Hockey Championships (Minneapolis, MN)
February – The largest outdoor pond hockey tournament held in the U.S.. Although it’s held at the coldest time of the year in Minnesota, it attracts up to 20,000 spectators, more than 1,600 players, and over 250 teams representing over 30 states, Canada and the UK. There are no cash prizes, the tournament’s top team receives some media attention, and the famed Golden Shovel. Read more about it on ESPN.com.