Gov. Tim Walz celebrated his first week in office with a boisterous inaugural party in Minneapolis on Saturday, treating thousands of Minnesotans to a night of food and performances meant to highlight the state’s diversity and strengths.
Roughly 3,000 supporters, along with a handful of protesters, packed into a ballroom at the Minneapolis Convention Center for the One Minnesota Inaugural Celebration. Attendees decked out in evening gowns and blue “Educators for Walz” T-shirts milled around the red-lit room, snacking on Swedish meatballs and walleye cakes as they sipped drinks from one of several cash bars. Many, including Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, sported the campaign’s signature buffalo plaid. A diverse lineup of Minnesota artists — a break-dancing troupe, young hip-hop artists from a YMCA after-school program and alt-country singer Martin Zellar — entertained the crowd.
Like other elements of Walz’s carefully choreographed inaugural week, the party brought together some of the state’s most powerful political players and members of the public. Attorney General Keith Ellison and House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, mingled alongside campaign supporters and volunteers. On the other side of the spectrum was a handful of apolitical partygoers who said they only RSVP’ed after hearing there would be free food.
Walz and Flanagan briefly addressed the crowd before spending much of the evening posing for photos with attendees. Both said the point of the night was to celebrate not just their victory and vision, but those who helped make it possible.
“Peggy and I will never be able to say thank you enough for all you did, but how we’re going to try to do that is by living what we talked about on the campaign: One Minnesota means everybody gets a chance,” said Walz, a Democrat and former congressman from Mankato.
That message wasn’t lost on Crystal Norcross, a 29-year-old supporter from St. Paul. Norcross, who is American Indian, said she wanted to come out to honor Flanagan becoming the highest-ranking Indian woman elected to statewide executive office. To her, the chance to spend the evening celebrating that historic win alongside commissioners and politicians was nothing short of “amazing.”
“I’m excited because I think some real change is happening. I just think that more racial equality will be achieved,” Norcross said. “Our voice is always quiet but as I look around here, these are people openly supporting us.”
The event, which was free and open to the public, also attracted critics. Soon after Walz spoke, protesters opposing Enbridge Energy Partners’ Line 3 pipeline replacement project gathered at the front of the room, unfurling banners and chanting “Stop Line 3” as performers took to the stage. Walz, whose administration is reviewing a court appeal seeking to block the project, did not appear to address the protesters directly.
“We’re here to remind people and tell people this is important,” said Rose Moore, an 18-year-old student from northeast Minneapolis. “No line has ever been successful. This one won’t be either.”
The party capped a week of ceremony and celebration for the administration. After being sworn in on Monday at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Walz and Flanagan traveled the state for public receptions in Duluth and Mankato. A final celebration is set for a brewery in Moorhead on Monday.
The cost of the parties will be covered by donations to the One Minnesota Inaugural Committee, a political nonprofit created to fund the inauguration celebrations. A full list of donors was not immediately available, but an event program listed dozens of major companies and labor unions as sponsors, including Best Buy, the Minnesota Vikings and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.
Torey Van Oot • 612-673-7299