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Growing up "a child of St. Paul," Chris Jensen said going to Grand Old Day and other neighborhood festivals reinforced what was special about the capital city. But over the past several years, rising costs, dwindling sponsorships and shrinking participation ended keystone festivals such as Rice Street Days, Highland Fest and Rondo Days. In 2019, the folks running Grand Old Day decided that they, too, could do no more. Then came the pandemic, racial unrest and ballooning security costs. Talks to bring back Grand Old Day withered.

Jensen, a Grand Avenue area residential mortgage specialist, decided that St. Paul had done without celebrating long enough. Tapping into the expertise of the St. Paul Area Chamber, Jensen — the new head of the Grand Avenue Business Association — revived Grand Old Day last year. Eye On St. Paul recently visited with Jensen, 47, as he was putting the finishing touches on the 2024 Grand Old Day — Sunday, June 2, will be the 51st edition. This interview was edited for length.

Q: What are some some of the last-minute preparations that you're doing?

A: We're canvassing Grand Avenue this week. We want to make sure we get all that information out to everyone that lives on the avenue and in the neighborhood. We've put together an FAQ for everybody that breaks down the events of what's happening [Sunday].

Q: Who gets the FAQ?

A: We get it to all the businesses, all the neighbors and the major landlords on the avenue, to let them know street closures and parking restrictions. And, of course, how they can buy wrist bands to help support us.

Q: How much are the wrist bands this year?

A: $10 [on the website]. Day of, they're $15, plus a processing fee. We do have VIP tickets again this year [$75]. I want to give a big shout-out to Brasa-St. Paul and Bank Cherokee [sponsors]. Our VIP lunch is actually going to be inside Brasa, so it's gonna be really cool with the main stage right next to it and some great sightlines. And, more importantly, you're gonna have shade.

Q: What are you expecting for weather?

A: I stopped looking about a week ago but it was it was looking really nice — 78. But I don't want to jinx it.

Q: This is your second year in a row. What's different from last year?

A: The main difference this year is we're not going west of Snelling. We've shrunk it a little bit due to the road construction happening from Fairview to Snelling.

Q: Why was bringing Grand Old Day back so important to you?

A: It was kind of depressing for citizens of St. Paul. We didn't have anything to celebrate for three years with COVID and everything. Last year, we gave everyone an opportunity to come out and celebrate each other. At the end of the day, it's all about community.

Q: How many people attended last year?

A: We estimate around 200,000, judging by the amount of trash we generated. And last year was pretty hot — 97, 98 degrees. So if we can keep it a little cooler, I think better attendance this year. We're planning to have 225,000.

Q: What are all those people going to do?

A: We have eight stages here. We have everything from the Twin Cities Mobile Jazz Project on our Youth Stage to up-and-coming artists on our Flavor Stage, to our Grand Stage, where we're partnering with the Current. We'll have some pretty big headliners such as Yam Haus, Charlie Parr and Your Smith. We even brought live wrestling back, which was such a big hit back in 2018.

We did bring a [3K] run back. That starts at 8:30. And then our parade kicks off at 9:30. Our vendors have booths open around 9. And then at 11 all our beer gardens open and the music starts. The wrestling also starts at 11.

Q: Tell me more about what I can see without a wristband.

A: We'll have the car show at Grand and Hamline. We have a very large art corridor. Last time I looked, we had almost 70 artists, artisans, performers and small nonprofits. That's going to be from Hamline to Snelling. We have 227 vendors this year. One thing that's brand new this year is we partnered with Metro Transit for free rides that day. There will be a link people will be able to click on day-of and get a free ticket. We also have a bike parking lot this year, at 1189 Grand.

Q: You told me that you and Brian Wagner [Grand Old Day co-chair] basically started from scratch last year. Is it worth the work?

A: Community's really important to me. I didn't like how my community looked with nothing to celebrate. So I got involved and decided to change that. At the end of the day, to see the kids' faces last year who were 4 to 6 and had never seen a parade in St. Paul before, made it all worth it.