Minneapolis, ready to party? Let’s make it a day

Local organizers are hoping to warm up Republican National Convention visitors with 24 hours of festivities

If you think Minneapolis can’t throw a party, Scott Mayer is out to prove you wrong.

Really wrong.

Mayer, perhaps best known as the organizer of the annual Ivey Awards, which celebrate the best in Minneapolis theater, for the past two months has been planning a giant celebration to kick off the Republican National Convention.

How giant? Well, he wants it to last for 24 hours.

Mayer began developing the idea after learning the Twin Cities weren’t going to do much to promote the arts during the convention, set for Sept. 1–4. While the thousands of expected visitors will be surrounded by the arts community, they won’t have much time to step out and grab a show or go to a gallery.

And that would mean exposure to the arts, what Mayer argues is one of the highlights of the metro area, would probably be lacking from much of the convention experience — and from media coverage, expected to be heavy.

“I don’t think we’ve yet grasped the potential of the Republican convention,” he said.

Thus, Spark24.

The goals

In planning Spark24, Mayer has kept the media in the back of his mind. The party, he said, would allow them to report live from the region at any time and always be able to show a festive, active backdrop.

The convention is expected to bring journalists from all over the world. If a TV reporter from Norway were to do a live report from the Twin Cities, Mayer said, he or she could do it from outside the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, a backdrop that won’t be very lively before the convention — especially in the early morning.

The alternative would be to head to Spark24, which Mayer is planning to have run from 8 p.m. Aug. 30 through 8 p.m. Aug. 31, the weekend directly preceding the convention. A live report could be done at 3 a.m. or 3 p.m. and show the same lively Twin Cities.

“This is a vibrant city with a great nightlife,” said Laura McCarthy, marketing communications director of Meet Minneapolis, who has met multiple times with Mayer to work on Spark24. “We want to directly counter the myth [that it isn’t].”

Mayer said the party also would expose aspects of the Twin Cities perhaps not familiar to those who’ve never visited, such as the cultural diversity — after all, not everyone here is of Scandinavian descent — and the two cities’ individual characteristics.

People outside of the media and convention visitors should benefit, too. Like Twin Cities residents themselves.

Many won’t be able to, or won’t want to, attend the actual convention, said Dana Munson, who has been working closely with Mayer to organizer performances and venues for Spark24. But that shouldn’t mean they can’t take part in the festivities of such a big national event, he said.

‘All things Minnesota’

In seeking out Spark24 performers, uniqueness is key.

“All things Minnesota,” Munson said when asked what he’s looking for. That’s in contrast to what other cities have done for major festivals.

Denver, the host of the Democratic National Convention, also is planning a party. But organizers there are flying in major acts with no connection to the region, thus not representing what Denver normally would have to offer, Mayer and Munson said.

“Our view is, we don’t need to go anywhere else to find our entertainment,” Mayer said.

So what can partygoers expect at Spark24? Many, many acts.

Munson said organizers are seeking out performers big and small — a range from Brother Ali to Bob Dylan, from Tapes ’n Tapes to Prince. “The event is only limited by budget,” Mayer said.

Chicago’s Looptopia has provided inspiration, Munson said. Two years old but already a major annual event, the 14-hour festival this year featured more than 120 acts and events.

Don’t expect Spark24 to be a Looptopia carbon copy, though. “They’re more about the music, whereas we’re trying to incorporate all the arts,” Munson said.

Here are some events Mayer and Munson are hoping to include, on top of a slew of musical, dance and theater acts:

A 24-hour film to be shown at a major Downtown location;

A 24-hour dance party inside Macy’s; and

A 24-hour painting project, where the work will start and finish during the party.

At this point, nothing is finalized, but he said to prepare for a huge celebration. And if it meets with great success, he said not to count out repeat festivals in the future.