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Minnesotans of the Year

One is a surgeon, the other a publisher. For five decades, Henry and Emilie Buchwald have transformed lives—one patient, one book, at a time.



(page 2 of 2)


Eventually the couple moved to Edina, where they raised a family and still live today. So the story has a happy ending. But the Buchwalds have never forgotten how it started, in flight from evil.

Emilie channels her outrage at injustice into the issue of animal abuse, which she sees as indicative of larger societal values. She is fond of Mahatma Gandhi’s observation that “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” “Do you treat other creatures as your equal or are you their conqueror?” she asks. An American Eskimo dog named Sam has the run of the Buchwalds’ lakeside home. But across America, the picture is more grim; the recent explosion in pet ownership has resulted in millions of dogs being bred in oppressively crowded conditions and millions more being given up, abandoned, or worse. Emilie acknowledges that some form of the strong taking advantage of the weak—the survival of the fittest—is endemic to all animals, including humans. She just doesn’t accept the instinct as unmalleable.

At a reading celebrating the release of Gryphon’s first two books (which she wrote under the name Daisy Bix), Emilie is surrounded by giant balloons shaped like dogs. She sits in the education room of the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley, down the hall from a room full of cats, a wall of birds, and, on this day, a phalanx of rabbits hopping about. “Animals have a point of view, with a life that’s significant to them and to us,” she declares to the audience, who, like her, likely believe animals deserve better than they generally get. “Though sometimes,” Emilie continues, “I feel the whole weight of the culture is against us.” Children as young as 2 or 3, she notes, form groups with the sole purpose of excluding others. Instinct is a formidable foe.

If anyone can change people through words, it may be Emilie. First of all, she knows how to use them better than most: as a child in Queens, she would sit on her porch and read the dictionary; she published her first short story in Harper’s Bazaar at 23. And her optimism has always been matched by pragmatism. It was 1979, the last gasp of ’60s-style change-the-world idealism, when she and art director R. W. Scholes launched The Milkweed Chronicle, a magazine that combined visual art and literary writing. In the late 1980s, by which time the hippies had suited up for office jobs, she and Scholes phased out the magazine and created Milkweed Editions as a nonprofit literary press. Soon, Bill Holm was sending in a 300-page manuscript on box elder bugs (it was edited and published) and a Milkweed book by Carol Bly was being reviewed in the New York Times. Today, more than 1 million Milkweed books are out in the world.

But while Emilie obviously wanted Milkweed’s books to sell well, she never sought bestsellers (the press’s most popular book, Montana 1948, by Larry Watson, has sold some 380,000 copies). Instead, Emilie reached out to authors with something meaningful to say. From the beginning, she made room for nonfiction books she called “thistles” because they addressed prickly topics: Transforming a Rape Culture, Changing the Bully Who Rules the World, Toward the Livable City. For her efforts, she’s been celebrated like few other publishers. “Her commitment to contemporary literature and her dedication to providing American readers with writing that tackles the foremost issues of our time—during a period when more and more books are published but fewer and fewer matter—can only be described as heroic,” said the late Cliff Becker, then the literature director of the National Endowment for the Arts, when Emilie received the McKnight Distinguished Artist prize. Janisse Ray, whose memoir Ecology of a Cracker Childhood was published by Milkweed and won an American Book Award, has said, “Hers is a holy work.”

From the beginning, though, Emilie had the idea of publishing books about the relationship between animals and people—picture books that depict animals’ real lives as pets or wildlife. (“Do you want the butt-sniffing?” an illustrator asked recently, while working on At the Dog Park with Sam and Lucy. “Of course,” Emilie responded.) In the ’80s, Emilie incorporated the Gryphon Press, named for the mythological creatures known as protectors and symbols of integrity. But Emilie never had time to pursue this passion until she left Milkweed in 2003. Now she has titles slated through 2008.

Photo by Joe Treleven

She also has a slogan: “the voice of the voiceless.” It’s quite a calling, but then the Buchwalds’ success can be traced, in part, to an uncanny ability to remake themselves to meet their goals, as though they had no awareness of their limitations. There is no other explanation for how Emilie—once such a bookworm that her mom worried she would never have a social life—became the gregarious head of an organization. Or how Henry, a Brooklyn boy, came to enjoy saddling up in chaps, neckerchief, and a 10-gallon hat to ride horses, which he frequently does on vacations in Arizona.

“They’re both very strong believers that you can make your life what you want it to be, by and large,” says Jane Buchwald, the couple’s eldest daughter, “and if you set your mind to a mission, you will do what you need to do to transform yourself into that person who can accomplish that mission.”

HENRY’S FIRST TRANSFORMATION occurred on the streets of New York. After the move from Austria to Long Island, his family had little money and, at age 6, Henry worked on the docks unloading fish. But eventually, the family moved to Upper Manhattan, and where Henry fell in with a group of 12 boys who called themselves the Wolf Pack, a kind of club that fostered an interest not only in sports but music and books. They would play baseball together, then listen to Beethoven. The group instilled in Henry a lifelong love of learning.

Henry went on to the selective Bronx High School of Science, where he was a competitive swimmer and concertmaster of the orchestra. At Columbia College, he swam varsity and was class valedictorian. It was this mix of the physical and intellectual that would soon draw him to surgery and to the U’s research-oriented training program—a focus that has endured. “It was an opportunity to dispel ignorance and bring something about that would hopefully have some lasting benefit,” Henry says.

Soon after his arrival at the U, Henry received his own lab and began studying cholesterol. In the 1970s, he received the largest grant the National Institutes of Health had ever given for research initiated by an investigator (as opposed to a government contract), for the landmark POSCH trials that would occupy him for the better part of three decades and ultimately demonstrate that lowering cholesterol could reduce heart attacks and otherwise increase life expectancy. He also helped invent the first implantable infusion pump, a device that helps inject chemotherapy, insulin, pain killers, and other drugs into patients more efficiently.

Henry’s mentor, Dr. Richard Varco, performed the first-ever obesity operation in 1953, and it was almost inevitable that Henry would be pulled into the field. Varco, a world-renowned surgeon, had participated in the first open-heart operation and later developed the U’s transplant program. But in 1966, he was temporarily sidelined after an accident that cut a nerve. And so, when he spotted Henry in the hallway one day, he asked him to take over an upcoming obesity surgery. “His hand was in a cast,” Henry recalls. “He was waving it, saying, ‘I would do it if I could!’ And now here I am, 4,000 operations later.”

At the time, bariatric surgery had as much of a stigma as obesity itself; most surgeons wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot scalpel. “It used to be the Rodney Dangerfield of surgery,” says Dr. Walter Pories, a pioneer in the field and a professor at East Carolina University. “How could you possibly want to deal with fat people? Those people are immoral gluttons, and gluttony’s one of the venal sins!” he says of the attitude then. At the time, the surgery often induced complications, and was so new that it wasn’t always clear who should or shouldn’t have the operation. “Its bad reputation was deserved,” Pories says.

But Pories and Buchwald carried on. “I developed an empathy for these poor people,” says Henry. “They have a disease, and there is no other disease that is treated with such disrepect. No one applies derision to people who have cancer or heart disease.”

Henry is convinced that obesity will experience a medical about-face the way ulcers have. Not so long ago, doctors believed ulcers were stress-induced and primarily occurred in anxiety-ridden mid-level executives. Now it’s known that ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection and could affect anyone. Henry suspects that the true causes of obesity may be similarly impersonal—a virus, even, that infects the hypothalamus and screws up the body’s sense of feeling full. “In 10 years, we may laugh at all this ideology of obesity,” he says. In the meantime, with the obesity epidemic linked to all manner of health concerns, bariatric surgery has suddenly become a savior. “First you don’t get no respect,” marvels Pories, “and now, in the last three or four years, we’ve become Mother Teresa.” For his part, Henry will continue to push for an understanding of both obesity and obesity surgery. “If you named maybe 10 international leaders [in bariatric surgery],” Pories says, “Henry would fall on any list that people in the field would make.”

But Henry has not been content to simply focus on obesity. He has begun work on a new quest: to understand how a measure of oxygen transport, the relative efficiency with which oxygen moves through the body, might redefine what it means to be healthy. He has discovered, for instance, that if you lower cholesterol, oxygen transport increases. And while it’s still unknown what the applications of measuring oxygen transport might be, Henry believes it could be anything from testing for the presence of heart disease to assessing overall health or even athletic potential.

This research began several decades ago, when he and others at the U built a device for measuring oxygen transport. Henry believes so strongly in its implications for patient well-being that he now funds some of the work himself. The Buchwalds, even in their seventies, seem like they’re just getting started. “It’s the Faustian spirit,” Henry says. “Always wanting to do something that goes into the future.”

Of course, the Buchwalds’ place in history is already assured, and for something bigger even than their individual achievements. On the U campus, you can stand between the monuments bearing the Buchwalds’ names, and, unable to read the specifics—to know that Emilie is etched in for her 2002 honorary doctorate or Henry for helping create the drug-infusion pump—you realize the details don’t matter. It is enough to know they have done something, and continue to do something, for the greater good. Or, as Emilie puts it, “To do something because you think it’s worth doing.” And not giving up. “It’s not even a work ethic,” Emilie says of her and Henry’s tirelessness. “It’s the ethic of continuing."

Tim Gihring is senior writer at Minnesota Monthly.
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MN Events Calendar Sponsored by:

June 2015

Come to Big Sandy Lodge and Resort to get all the delicious pancakes you can eat for only $5.

Cost: $5

Where:
Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
20534 487th Street
McGregor, MN  55760
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Sponsor: Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
Telephone: 218-426-5040
Website »

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YogaFit's Mind Body Fitness Conference is where students work towards a Yoga Alliance registry, earn continuing education credits, or simply deepen one's yoga practice and transform...

Cost: $329- $975

Where:
Hilton Minneapolis
1001 Marquette Avenue South
Minneapolis , MN   55403
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Website »

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Pride Parade Rooftop Viewing Party CRAVE Rooftop – Downtown Minneapolis Live DJ: DJ FANCY RESTAURANT Start time: 9am $5 from each ticket donated to OutFront Minnesota ...

Cost: $10 (includes free Absolute or Jameson cocktail)

Where:
CRAVE Rooftop
825 Hennepin Ave MN
Minneapolis , MN  55402
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Come join us at the Skyway Theatre as we take over the block for the Pride Parade!  Drinks and brunch starting at 9am and DJs at 12pm! Get the best seat for the best parade of the...

Cost: No Cover

Where:
Bar Fly & Maruso
715 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Telephone: 612-333-6100
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Pride Parade Viewing Party UNION Rooftop – Downtown Minneapolis Start time: 9am (presale tickets) / 10am (day-of tickets) Live DJs: DJ Lindsay ‘Shiek’ Earney and DJ Lenka...

Cost: $10 (includes a free mimosas, glass of champagne or Absolute cocktail)

Where:
UNION Rooftop
731 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis , MN  55403
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Show your Pride by taking part in the Twin Cities Pride Rainbow Run on Sunday, June 28th! Starting at Boom Island and ending near Loring Park, the route takes runners along Hennepin Avenue as...

Cost: $30

Where:
Boom Island Park
800 Sibley Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN  55413
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Sponsor: Twin Cities Pride
Telephone: (612) 255-3260
Website »

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The 2015 Twin Cities Pride Festival features over 400 exhibitors, 40 food and beverage booths, 20 sponsors, and 300,000+ visitors who participate in this free celebration of the GLBT...

Cost: Free

Where:
Loring Park
1382 Willow Street
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Sponsor: Twin Cities Pride
Telephone: (612) 255-3260
Website »

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Join YogaLean's author Beth Shaw in this new 1 day YogaLean Transformational Workshop during the Minneapolis Mind Body Fitness Conference.  Explore holistic modalities of weight loss,...

Cost: $129.00

Where:
Hilton Minneapolis
1001 Marquette Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Website »

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Join YogaLean's author Beth Shaw in this new 1 day YogaLean Transformational Workshop during the Minneapolis Mind Body Fitness Conference.  Explore holistic modalities of weight loss,...

Cost: $129.00

Where:
Hilton Minneapolis
1001 Marquette Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Website »

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The 2015 Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade will be held on Sunday, June 28, beginning at 11 a.m. along Hennepin Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis. The Parade route starts at 3rd and Hennepin and ends at...

Cost: Free or $40 Grandstand tickets

Where:
Hennepin Ave in Downtown Minneapolis
Hennepin & 3rd to Hennepin & Spruce
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Sponsor: Twin Cities Pride
Telephone: (612) 255-3260
Website »

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The Twin Cities Pride Entertainment Team is excited to bring you over 50 local acts during Pride Weekend. The schedule is below, but know that things are subject to change.  ...

Cost: Free. $10 General/$75 VIP for Pride in Concert 6/27 5pm at Loring Stage.

Where:
Loring Park
1382 Willow St
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Telephone: 612-255-3260
Contact Name: Twin Cities Pride
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The celebration will be held in true Lurcat style, featuring music, dancing, festive food, cocktails and more! Café & Bar Lurcat is central to the Pride festival in Loring Park and found...

Cost: Free to enter

Where:
Cafe & Bar Lurcat
1624 Harmon Pl
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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What do you get when you explore the magical, yet tangled, intersection between the genius of art and the self-destruction of addiction; set it to catchy music against a backdrop of vivid visual...

Cost: $25.00

Where:
Minnetonka Theatre
18285 Highway 7
Minnetonka, MN  55345
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Website »

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Don’t miss one of Minnesota’s hippest and hoppiest events. This local craft beer tasting event includes live music and a ton of tasty appetizers paired with the best brews in the Twin...

Cost: $50

Where:
Nicollet Island Pavilion
40 Power St.
Minneapolis, MN  55401
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Sponsor: Canvas Health
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The Minnesota Boychoir, under the direction of Mark Johnson, will be concluding their 2015 East Coast Tour with a Welcome Home Concert this Sunday, June 28 at the Graebner Memorial Chapel on the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Graebner Memorial Chapel
Saint Paul, MN

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Open Window Theatre is making a children's event of fantastical proportions with their summer youth theater production of James and the Giant Peach.  Roald Dahl's imaginative adventure...

Cost: ADVANCE: $6/child (lap child free), $8/student, $12/adult

Where:
Open Window Theatre
Metropolis Minneapolis Building
1313 Chestnut Avenue
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Telephone: 612-615-1515
Contact Name: Jeremy Stanbary
Website »

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We know it's the height of summer, so we think it's the perfect time to get a SUP you'll love. Get your board now while there is still plenty of summer left. Some of our hottest selling...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
, MN


Sponsor: Silver Creek Paddle
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Join us for an afternoon of stories, music, and poetry that evoke and express a profound connection to place — places we’ve lived, struggled, thrived, seen changed or destroyed, or...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Ox Coffee Co
3740 Chicago Ave S
Minneapolis, MN  55407
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Sponsor: Kairos Earth
Telephone: 405-365-8796
Contact Name: Chelsea Scudder
Website »

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We know it's the height of summer, so we think it's the perfect time to get a SUP you'll love. Get your board now while there is still plenty of summer left. Some of our hottest selling...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
, MN


Sponsor: Silver Creek Paddle
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RN’s and LPN’s for Evenings, Nights & Weekends - $2,000 hiring bonus Trillium Woods, a brand new continuing care retirement community, is opening on July 6th and we are having an...

Cost: Free

Where:
Trillium Woods
14633 Country Road 4
Plymouth, MN  55446
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Invest a few life-changing hours in our Power Trading Workshop, where you'll learn: How to identify points where supply and demand are out of balance and price is about to move. The two...

Cost: free

Where:
Online Trading Academy
7900 International Drive Suite 170
Bloomington, MN  55425
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Telephone: 952-814-4410
Website »

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Bring your lunch and learn more about the opportunities to live, learn, and work with a community overseas through Peace Corps service. Peace Corps is a federal agency which provides U.S....

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Phalen Picnic Pavilion
1600 Phalen Drive
St. Paul, MN  55106
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Sponsor: Peace Corps
Telephone: 612.233.9605
Contact Name: Krista M. Mastel
Website »

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Bring your lunch and learn more about the opportunities to live, learn, and work with a community overseas through Peace Corps service.   Peace Corps is a federal agency which provides...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Phalen Picnic Pavilion
1600 Phalen Dr
St. Paul, MN  55106
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Sponsor: Peace Corps
Telephone: 651.233.9605
Contact Name: Krista M. Mastel
Website »

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Enhanced and engaged learning, creating and sharing ideas, and forming partnerships are just a few benefits of collaborative classroom learning. Now, with tools like Office 365, OneNote for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Microsoft Store - Mall of America
162 South Ave
Bloomington, MN  55425
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 Join us for a 4th of July barbecue, yard games, and outdoor movie hosted by Mary Mother's Young Adult Catholics Hanging Together group. All are welcome! Bring a dish to share. This...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mary Mother of the Church in Burnsville
3333 E. Cliff Road
Burnsville, MN  55337
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Sponsor: Young Adult Catholics Hanging Together
Telephone: 952-890-0045
Contact Name: Kosi Onyeneho
Website »

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OneNote is a free cross-platform app that helps students and teachers save time, stay organized, and collaborate more effectively in and out of the classroom. Students can build portfolios of...

Cost: Free

Where:
, MN

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Summer is the sweetest time to savor the river, so sign up now for River City Revue! It's a delectable blend of live music, cool history, and hands-on art adventures, all happening at the Saint...

Cost: $10 - $15

Where:
St. Paul Yacht Club
375 W Water St
St. Paul, MN  55107
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Sponsor: Mississippi River Fund, Works Progress & the National Park Service
Telephone: 651-291-8164
Contact Name: Katie Nyberg
Website »

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Enter the halls of Casket Arts to encounter the work of 20+ artists working in paint, sculpture, light, fibers, and sound. A one night only event with several site specific...

Cost: Free

Where:
Casket Arts Carriage House
1707 Jefferson St Ne
Minneapolis, MN  55413
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The flipped classroom is an innovative method of teaching that allows for multimedia lessons and in-class exercises. Now you can “flip” your own classroom using familiar tools like...

Cost: Free

Where:
Microsoft Store - Mall of America
162 South Ave
Bloomington, MN
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The foundation of Jillian's country-esque, classically trained songwriter-style musicianship was built on northern Minnesta's Iron Range. Under the talented eye of Helina Pakola, who has...

Cost: 5

Where:
Mankato Brewery
1119 Center Street
, MN  56003
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Sponsor: Mankato Brewery
Website »

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One of the most highly sought-after skills in the workforce today is coding. In this workshop, we’ll show you how to create an app from a template, add content, and upload an app to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Microsoft Store - Mall of America
Bloomington, MN

More information

Bryan Olds Band will be performing live at Big Sandy Lodge and Resort on Friday, July 3. The folk-rock blues band plays a variety of original songs, as well as covers, ranging from Pearl Jam to...

Cost: Check with venue for details.

Where:
Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
20534 487th Street
McGregor, MN  55760
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Sponsor: Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
Telephone: 218-426-5040
Website »

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The 90’s alternative rock band – The Mallrats – will take the Amphitheater stage at Grand Casino Hinckley on Friday, July 3 at 8:30 p.m. Following the show will be a spectacular...

Cost: $10 general admission

Where:
Grand Casino Hinckley Amphitheater
777 Lady Luck Dr
Hinckley, MN  55037
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Website »

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Bunker’s Music Bar & Grill Presents Award Winning Vocalist Patty Peterson & Friends with Special Guest Melanie Rosales Friday, July 3, 2015 - 9:30pm 761 Washington Avenue N,...

Cost: $10.00

Where:
Bunker's Music Bar and Grill
761 Washington Ave N
#325
Minneapolis, MN  55401
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Sponsor: Bunker's Music Bar and Grill
Telephone: 847-624-5087
Contact Name: Carrie Miller
Website »

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It’s almost that special time of year again, where you pull out your flag, grab your lawn chair, and put on that sunscreen…the 68th annual Saint Anthony Park 4th of July Parade and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Anthony Park/Langford Park
Saint Paul, MN  55108


Sponsor: 4th In The Park Committee & The Saint Anthony Park Community Foundation
Telephone: 651-343-7365
Contact Name: Josh Becerra, Jeanne Hansen, & Emma Seeley
Website »

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Mystic Lake’s Rock and Rockets Fourth of July Celebration returns this year with another spectacular fireworks display. The free, all-ages event will take place outside Mystic Lake beginning...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mystic Lake Casino Hotel
2400 Mystic Lake Blvd.
Prior Lake, MN  55372
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Telephone: 952-496-7388
Website »

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Celebrate this Independence Day by watching fireworks light up the night sky over Big Sandy Lake. The event will take place at dusk, between Davis and Goff’s Bay, on the Fourth of July.

Cost: Free

Where:
Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
20534 487th Street
McGregor, MN  55760
View map »


Sponsor: Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
Telephone: 218-426-5040
Website »

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