University of Minnesota students, business leaders, musicians and other community members gathered on Nicollet Island on Wednesday evening to eat free food, learn about Ward 3 or try out a Segway.
Hosted by Ward 3 Minneapolis City Council incumbent Diane Hofstede, the eighth annual Neighborhood Fest consisted of residents wandering from booth to booth, connecting with ward businesses.
Hofstede has represented Ward 3, an area that includes the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood and other parts of the University of Minnesota, since 2005. She hosted the first Neighborhood Fest a year later.
As the November City Council election approaches, Hofstede and opponent Jacob Frey, the ward’s DFL candidate, are both vying for student support.
“We have been really trying to work to get students in, because I really strongly believe that they need to be engaged in the community,” Hofstede said.
Two University students from the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority volunteered by signing people in at the event, and students with the University’s Student and Community Relations tabled a booth in the Nicollet Island pavilion.
In addition to volunteers, a few students showed up in the crowd, mostly for the free food. Not many knew of Hofstede.
“I think it’s weird that there aren’t many students here because of all the free food and information,” said biomedical engineering sophomore Andrew Cumming, who worked at the event with Student and Community Relations.
Kinesiology sophomore Cassidy Weber volunteered after Hofstede came to her sorority house to pitch the idea.
“There was no advertisement of the event anywhere on campus we knew of,” she said.
Frey is officially endorsed by the University’s College Democrats, who help him campaign.
“A lot of people will say that you can’t get students to show up,” Frey said. “Well, that may sometimes be true, but you can get 20 students to change the damn world because they are willing to work like dogs for a cause they believe in.”
Last year, about 2,000 people came to the event, and staff estimated a similar turnout this year.
Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, praised both the festival and Hofstede.
“Every ward should do something like this,” she said, “and she’s the only one who does.”
The event highlighted ward accomplishments and emphasized networking opportunities, with booths ranging from city inspection information to massages.
“It’s such a wonderful way to showcase everything that’s going on in the ward,” Kahn said.
Signs in the pavilion established that the festival was a “Campaign-Free Zone.”
Hofstede mingled with the crowd and ran from stage to stage to announce raffle winners or the next performance.
Part of the event’s focus was housing development and new projects in the ward, including the upcoming Vikings stadium.
Stadium construction will add an estimated 7,000 new jobs, with “high goals to hire women and minorities groups,” Hofstede said.
The emphasis on development also extended to the future of Dinkytown, which is part of the ward.
Minneapolis Principal City Planner Haila Maze was at the event to collect opinions on development in the ward, including specifics on Dinkytown.
“As far as I’m concerned, I want to hear what the community thinks,” Hofstede said. “I do use that to make decisions.”