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It’s sun, shopping and smiles at downtown Duluth’s Sidewalk Days

People stroll up and down Superior Street for Duluth’s sidewalk days. (Steve Kuchera / / 3
Ashley Peterson watches as her niece, Lilly Giernett, 3, throws a bean bag at a vendor along Superior Street during Duluth’s annual Sidewalk Days Festival on Wednesday afternoon. (Steve Kuchera / / 3
Flames flare up Wednesday as Farley’s Grill owner Kelly Trumpold grills burgers on Superior Street during Duluth’s Sidewalk Days. (Steve Kuchera / / 3

One tote bag for sale touted, “Life is a special occasion.”

It may as well have been the motto for Wednesday’s start to three days of downtown Duluth’s annual Sidewalk Days Festival.

Because is anything more special than shopping under the sun? Not if you asked many of the people outside Maurices’ corporate headquarters on the 100 block of West Superior Street, where the line to pay for merchandise stretched and bobbed like a Chinese New Year dragon float.

“It’s my second time here today,” said Jacie Maslowski of Poplar, Wis. “I split my lunch break in two. This is really fun. And the deals are good.”

The air smelled of gyro meat. There were free blood pressure checks on one block and mini-doughnuts on another, which was a good thing traveling one way, a potential health risk headed the other.

One man could be heard saying what everyone was thinking, “Ain’t too fun to walk on the sidewalk when you can walk on the street,” he proclaimed.

One booth, however, couldn’t make it onto Superior Street.

The folks wanting to recall Duluth city councilor Sharla Gardner were relegated to a side street by the Greater Downtown Council, the event’s organizer.

“There was no use fighting it,” said Dale Sola, who was staffing the booth. “They said they preferred not to have any political booths on the site. I’m pretty close anyway. We’re getting good exposure.”

The Duluth East High School robotics team, the Daredevils, ran repeated demonstrations of its project — with its body whirring like R2D2 and arms that grabbed like forceps.

Participants could climb up a faux rock wall, and local dignitaries could rappel down the side of the Sellwood Building. Or a person could stay right where they were and receive either a henna tattoo or an airbrushed one.

There were plenty of options.

Fifteen-year-old Maddy Siiter of Proctor chose to plug in a borrowed amplifier and sing songs from her debut, self-produced CD of original material, “Just Like That.”

When asked what she wrote about, the young troubadour said: “I like to write songs so people understand what it’s like growing up.”

With that, she turned to the mike, supplying the soundtrack to Superior Street’s three-day special occasion.