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After making a strong return this past summer following COVID lockdown, the Walker Art Center's Rock the Garden festival will not be back in 2023, its organizers announced Wednesday.

"We are grateful to go out on a high note as a team," the Walker's executive director Mary Ceruti and Minnesota Public Radio president Duchesne Drew said in a joint statement that says they are "retiring" the festival.

Held most years in early June on the hillside outside the Walker and the adjoining Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Rock the Garden has been put on annually since 2008 by the Walker and MPR's rock outlet 89.3 the Current as a promotional event and membership drive. An earlier version of it was also staged from 1998-2004 before the Current came around.

This past year's lineup drew around 12,000 people despite ongoing COVID worries with two distinct headliners: high-energy soul-rock ensemble Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and riot-grrrl icons Sleater-Kinney. The list of prior headliners reads like a who's who of modern indie-rock stars, including Bon Iver, the National, Father John Misty, the Decemberists and Spoon.

A Walker representative said the event did "remain profitable" up until this year. However, it's getting more and more challenging for the two nonprofit organizations to compete.

The concert industry around artists like these has gotten much more competitive over the past decade, with more festivals happening across the country and more outdoor concerts here in the Twin Cities. Many of the aforementioned headliners have also performed at Surly Brewing Festival Field in recent summers, concerts promoted by First Avenue. Also, the general costs for producing outdoor concerts has increased significantly since COVID.

"The world of live music has changed substantially since 2008," the Current's managing director David Safar conceded. But he hardly sounded defeated.

"We're not leaving behind the idea of helping to bring live music to our audiences," he added. "We're just looking at how to do it differently moving forward."

Minneapolis saw another of its biggest and longest-running summer music festivals, the Basilica Block Party, go on hiatus in 2022 following a tepidly received return in September 2021. Organizers of that event just called it a "hiatus" but have not confirmed if their block party will return in 2023.

Rock the Garden's team is being more finite about calling it an end to their event, but not to their relationship as co-promoters of adventurous music.

"The 13 festivals we co-produced together held so many memorable moments, and brought joy and inspiration to many," said Philip Bither, senior curator of performing arts at the Walker. "We look forward to continuing to collaborate with MPR and The Current in new ways and new projects in the future."