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Arts

HOBT’s MayDay Festival Returns This Year in a New Form

They're swapping the parades for politics, for starters.

MayDay's gonna look different this year.
HOBT

After taking two years off to restructure, reboot, and, you know, avoid Covid, the MayDay Festival is back. But don’t expect it to look and feel exactly the same this year: “It’s not a parade, it’s a political-cultural festival,” the press release begins. 

In 1975, Minneapolis’s Powderhorn neighborhood hosted its first MayDay Parade and Festival. The event, organized by In the Heart of the Beast Theater, celebrated the end of the Vietnam War, the beginning of spring, and the area’s theater and performance community. By the 2010s, the fest had become a springtime juggernaut, bringing together 75,000 attendees in 2018. 

But by 2019, HOBT had made it clear that MayDay was no longer sustainable as is, and event organizers wanted to take time off to reconsider the event, specifically with the intention to address people in the community who felt that MayDay was marginalizing and appropriating art by POC.

“It is increasingly clear to me that it is just not possible to produce the MayDay that people have come to know and love and at the same time, do the work to change it,” executive director Corrie Zoll told the Star Tribune in 2019. “So if what we can do in the next year is either produce MayDay or redesign MayDay, this is a choice to redesign MayDay.”

So, that what they did. This May 1, you’ll be able to experience the newly reimagined event.

So what exactly is going on this year? A mix of protest, artists’ work on display, and kids’ activities. 

Another big change: HOBT isn’t the only group organizing the event. Instead, they’ve formed a MayDay Council that will select organizations each year to help put on an impactful collaboration. Community-elected members make up the council, a majority of whom are IBPOC artists and leaders. This year, they’ve partnered up with MIGIZI, Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue, and Roosevelt High School.

Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue, an Indigenous learning group that teaches and celebrates Aztec dance, has chosen this year’s themes: immigration and International Workers’ Day.

“I had this idea, what if for one year instead of marching… what if we just put all that work and we have a street festival that takes into account that we are laborers, that we are struggling with different issues, that we have fears, that we have hopes, and that we are also rich in cultural traditions?” says KetzalCoatlicue’s Susana De Leon.

Meanwhile, Native American nonprofit MIGIZI has been working with kids to create puppets for the festival, one MayDay tradition that isn’t going away.

Taking place at Four Directions Family Center Parking Lot (1527 E. Lake St., Minneapolis), the afternoon event will also include speeches from activists, poetry performances, and other entertainment onstage. Food trucks will be stopping by, and there will be hands-on fun for kids.

IF YOU GO:

MayDay Festival 2022
1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 1
Four Directions Family Center Parking Lot
1527 E. Lake St., Minneapolis