Green Man cometh

"Who is the Green Man? An ancient pagan god of nature? A modern punker hippie? An adventure junkie? A hero? A partyer? Yes! Green Man is an original. A trendsetter."...

"Who is the Green Man? An ancient pagan god of nature? A modern punker hippie? An adventure junkie? A hero? A partyer? Yes! Green Man is an original. A trendsetter."

That's how organizers of Duluth's Green Man Festival pitch the event's mascot and, by extension, the event itself. Northlanders will get their second encounter with the Green Man July 11-13 at Spirit Mountain.

The brainchild of brothers Brad and Tim Nelson and Rod Raymond, the sort of neo-Woodstock Green Man Festival is about music, about art, about endurance sports and about the environment.

Most of all, the Nelsons see it as about Duluth.

"Duluth is just about living, about kind of taking life by the horns," says Brad, publisher of the Ripsaw News, who likens the festival to an "ultra-concentrated Duluth weekend."


"I think it's going to be this surreal ... escape," he said.

The music lineup includes more than 30 bands covering a broad spectrum of rock music. The headliners include Leftover Salmon, which has a big national following in outdoor music.

"That's really helped our buzz among that community," Tim said.

Other big names are Wookie Foot and The Big Wu, both of the Twin Cities.

But there are many sounds to the music. Mark Mallman has influences from the Replacements, Tim said, and Ol' Yeller is more country. Cry on Cue has reggae flavor and Heiruspecs is more hip hop. He compares Shannon Wright to a female Led Zeppelin.

The main sporting event is a 12-hour mountain bike race featuring top local athletes and some national names. There are also Trueride skateboard ramps, a Vertical Endeavors climbing wall, Frisbee sports and a 5K uphill race.

Art -- painters, jugglers, and puppets, for starters -- is part of the mix. Norton Wisdom, a painter who works while musicians play, is expected to return.

"I was sober watching this guy last year, and it didn't feel like it," Brad said.


And an environmental theme is key: "green" vendors will have exhibition space, trash bags will be biodegradable, and organizers plan to compost food waste.

American Indian drummers will lead a Sunday-morning nondenominational/secular service. Food will come from a variety of vendors including India Palace and the Spirit Mountain chalet. Camping is free with your entry pass.

If the vibe sounds familiar, think points west. "It's sort of the same mentality you find in the ski towns," Brad said.

This year is the second go-around for the Green Man. Last year, the event was held at Mont du Lac, but the weather didn't cooperate. And last year's Green Man was more like a Green Teen -- although plans for the mountain biking component were hatched, there wasn't enough time to put them in place.

Now Green Man is approaching maturity.

Raymond, one of the area's top endurance athletes and co-owner (with Tim Nelson) of Fitger's Brewhouse, introduced Grady Larimer, another athlete and mountain biker, to the mix. And from there things have gelled.

"We can't even keep up with our own ideas right now," Brad said.

Tim said the crowd has become a part of the festival and will continue to play a part -- whether it's dressing in green or bringing art and sports ideas -- Frisbee sports being a prime example -- to the mix.


Brad said Green Man has drawn inspiration from the Blues Festival, which he said gives people a direct connection to Duluth in addition to great music.

"That was a part of what we thought here, too -- Duluth is our greatest asset," he said.

And the Blues Fest is also a model for the mix of regional and local bands. Both Brad and Tim are members of local bands; the Brewhouse is one of the primary venues for local music, and the Ripsaw an avid supporter.

{IMG2}The lineup of area musicians is significant. "That'll be something that we do every year," Brad said.

Tim said the local scene has earned its place, and he sees it on the road with his own music career. "Duluth is standing up to these other bands that are playing Saturday night in a big city," he said.

Local favorites include No Room to Pogo, Teague Alexy w/ Medication, Haley Bonar and the Pete Ekstam Project.

The music side of Green Man is drawing attention in the jam band scene. And the sports side is dramatically drawing attention in its own realm, including a notice in Bike magazine.

Larimer said the sporting side of Green Man is going to take everyone by surprise, particularly the mountain biking trail, which is highly vertical for a 12-hour trail and very scenic.


"Spirit is a destination for people," he said. "They come up here to ride."

Even on lap 16, he said, views will be breathtaking.

"It's gonna blow people away that are on their bikes," he said.

Next year, Larimer hopes to have a 24-hour race, and he even hopes it could become an American Mountain Bike Classic (AMBC) series race. "If not, then a totally unique buzz kind of race, anyway," Larimer said.

Some top riders plan to be at Green Man, which should make for some "eye candy," Larimer said.

"We're going to get some very impressive athletes," he said. "... It's gonna be an awesome spectator thing."

But in addition to the elite athletes, amateurs can join in, too, even forming teams. A similar theme carries over into the 5K race that opens Green Man. It's a more extreme event than the typical 5K -- going straight up Spirit Mountain -- but participants can either walk or run or just sit waiting in a lawn chair at the top.

Organizers have big plans for the Green Man Festival, but as was the case for several years of the Bayfront Blues Festival's history, a cloud hangs over the Green Man's venue with a potential development project -- the Spirit Mountain golf course.


"We are concerned about it," Brad said. "The event wouldn't work there if there was a golf course over our festival area."

But while he says it's one example of an alternate summer event for what many hope will become a year-round facility, it's clearly not a debate festival organizers are eager to jump into. The Nelsons say Spirit Mountain staff has been supportive and fabulous to work with.

News to Use

The Green Man Festival runs July 11-13 on Spirit Mountain with more than 25 bands, adventure sports, art and "oddities." Festival passes are $55 if purchased in advance (before July 10) and $60 at the gate opening Friday or $45 at the gate Saturday. "Rustic" camping is included in the fee. Those who enter the mountain bike race (registration starts at $60) get festival passes free. See the Green Man Web site at or call 279-5253 for details. Tickets are also available at Electric Fetus and online at .

Kyle Eller is features editor for the Budgeteer News. Reach him at or 723-1207.

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