An effort to consider the important moments of the past decade in local Arts & Entertainment was quickly thwarted in favor of something a little more Duluth-y: the oh-yeah-that wacky moments. Here are tales of Gallagher, Sasquatch, and the story of "Duluth is Horrible."
January 2010: Sledge-o-matic this
Gallagher, a fixture of 1980s comedy with his famous scraggly skullet and his giant hammer-versus-watermelon party trick, played Grandma’s Sports Garden in front of about 300 fans, er, fans-ish — including those in the front row with umbrellas and rain gear. It took 6 minutes to rustle up a heckler, the star made digs about the size of Duluth, referenced Dinah Shore, and had a stream of hahas about lesbians. And by the 56th minute — a joke about Haiti, post devastating earthquake — the crowd had turned on him.
“You want my audience,” he asked a man dressed like SpongeBob who was sitting in the front row. “I’ve worked my whole life for them. Shut up.”
Everyone came together again for the ceremonial smashing of watermelon, then the seemingly peeved artist abruptly ended the show. Read the review here.
March 2010: Fiber fever
In February of 2010, Duluth began efforts to woo Google — which was looking for a spot to test a 1 gigabit-per-second “fiber optic to the home” internet access — 100 times faster than the broadband speeds at the time. Locally, Project Google Fiber took a lot of creative forms: a contest for innovative business ideas (prize, $500), a parody of a news conference where the mayor, played by Dave Orman, that henceforth all children would be named Google or Googlette. And, the biggest push, a movie about the young orphaned Google Child in search of a home. Filming wrapped during GoogleFest — a pop-up event at the DECC that included Google logo face paint, laptops for communicating with the Google fiber people, music by the Lake City Smokin’ Section. About 650 people attended.
Ultimately, Kansas City won Google fiber.
July 2011: The curious case of the mural
Local artists and kiddos combined on a project that would give splashes of color to a wall in Cascade Park, just below the intersection of Mesaba Avenue and Seventh Street. But. The Unity in Community mural project wasn’t a hit with everyone. While some neighbors joined in the paint-party, others found it lacking in artistic merit. There were meetings and letters to the editor, and then Mayor Don Ness expressed disappointment over the lack of communication. The participating artists presented updated visions for the space that incorporated the earlier work in a more polished piece and then updated the wall according to the designs.
All these years later, the local mural scene has thrived — with works by Adam Swanson, Moira Villiard, Derek Brown and more.
January 2012: Smellin' Squatch
A crew of Sasquatch seekers, inspired by a concentration of reports of sightings, traveled to Northeastern Minnesota to comb the Moose Lake area for signs of the maybe-or-maybe not-mythical creature. The episode of the Animal Planet reality series “Finding Bigfoot” was filmed in August 2011 and aired about five months later and included interviews with residents who claimed sightings — including one who saw the 8-foot tall creature run through the woods near Autumba and felt her four-wheeler shake beneath her. The show’s crew didn’t find anything definitive, but the pros agreed that something squatchy was going on.
February 2012: Duluth: An outsider's inside take
Adam Carr, of Milwaukee, moved to Duluth for a month for a personal project: "January in Duluth." He selected Duluth for his multi-media project for a handful of reasons including the band Low and a college friend who grew up here. Carr solicited hang-outs and get-to-know-yous from locals. The first thing he did was capture the a photograph of the view from First United Methodist Church and then hiked Ely's Peak. He met hockey fans, the poet laureate, sat in the mayor's chair. His project is posted on wordpress.
June 2013: Duluth is Horrible
A San Francisco filmmaker had a dream, literally. Vincent Gargiulo had the idea of a short film with semi-autobiographical vignettes, but its title, “Duluth is Horrible,” cropped up during REM. So Gargiulo, who at the time was most famous for a viral vid called “Taste the Biscuit” that landed on George Lopez’s late-night talk show, packed up and briefly moved to the Northland to make the movie. (Not everyone welcomed him. An anonymous person donated $1.46 to his Kickstarter with the message “Stay away from Duluth.”) Six months later, Gargiulo screened the work for about 50 people. A News Tribune reporter said it was “shot beautifully in all that is February in the Twin Ports.”
August 2016: The Kiss dis
Kiss came to town and we were forever changed. A News Tribune reviewer had a layered take on the concert at Amsoil Arena that referenced Gene Simmons’ politics and his ego and a finale that included a version of “The Star Spangled Banner” that triggered the fire alarms. “All that said,” Tony Bennett wrote, “when you’re standing in the crowd, the lights go down and the band emerges in a fusillade of pyro and blinding flashes and drops the undeliable anthem ‘Detroit Rock City’ it’s hard to not crack a smile.” The Kiss Army, not to mention Simmons, got Twitter mad. The review is among the most read things in the history of keeping such tallies at the News Tribune. Speaking of Simmons: Before showtime, he had an issue with his 10-inch black platform boots with 1-inch lifts and an attached velcro dragon. Karen McTavish, internationally known in the world of quilting, fixed the boot with a toenail clipper and saved the show.
May 2018: The rise of Rhubarbara
Rhubarbara, the oversized stalk with leafy hair, dreamy eyes and a sour pucker, has long been a local fan-favorite at the annual Rhubarb Fest. The oft-photographed character has become as much of a staple at the event as the rhubarb lemonade and rhubarb relish. Cut to the mid-2010s when filmmaker Daniel Stine was in town scouting locations for his feature-length film “Virginia Minnesota” and he got a glimpse of Rhubarbara. She landed a cameo in the movie — she has a dance-off with another character during a party at Split Rock Lighthouse.
2019 June: The on-goingness of Dylan
Like him or lump him, existing in a world that includes Bob Dylan — especially in a place with such a non-connection connection — is always interesting. Most recently, Dylan was featured in the not-always-factual Martin Scorsese documentary “The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story.” But the decade has had so many Dylan moments: The Dylan-inspired “Girl from the North Country” Depression-era musical is climbing the theatrical ranks; He played Bayfront Festival Park in 2013; He released Heaven’s Door, a line of whiskey; He’s been showing his visual art in places like London and Nashville; And, oh, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature and was super weird about it.