Basilica Block Party here again July 10-11

| June 22, 2015 | 0 Comments
Basilica of St. Mary

Basilica of St. Mary

“Shattered (Turn the Car Around)” and “Peace” are hit songs the throngs will want to hear at this year’s Basilica Block Party, and seeing top-flight groups like O.A.R. live is the big draw at the annual fundraiser for the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.

Now in its 21st year, the two-day block party — coming up July 10-11 — is one of the entertainment mainstays of summer in the Twin Cities, last year attracting some 25,000 people.

Attracting them to the Catholic faith is part of the marketing plan, too, organizers said.

Weezer and Zoo Animal are among the groups on the Friday evening ticket with O.A.R., and Saturday’s line-up includes Wilco, Fitz and The Tantrums and American Scarecrows, among others.

At one of the many vendor booths, attendees will be able to walk away with a photo of themselves with Pope Francis, thanks to Catholic United Financial, the regional nonprofit fraternal association based in Arden Hills.

Music fans will also be able to check out a variety of volunteer opportunities that communities of women religious in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis could use help with. Sisters will be staffing a booth at the block party as a part of the worldwide Year of Consecrated Life.

Preservation plus charity

The first 20 block parties have raised $5.2 million to help repair, restore and preserve the landmark church where Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues and 17th Street North converge on the western edge of downtown Minneapolis.

“Each year for the past 20 we’ve focused on whatever capital projects were a priority,” noted Emily Hjelm, who is executive director of The Basilica Landmark, the 501(c)(3) charitable organization missioned to preserve the church and its campus.

“Replacing the dome of the basilica 20 years ago was the first project,” she said. “This year we are working on restoring the fourth floor of the Reardon Rectory.”

That space that has been used solely for storage will be turned into meeting rooms and an area for housing the basilica’s archives and art collection so that they are more available for research purposes, Hjelm said.

Each year, 5 percent of revenue from the block party is earmarked to fund the basilica’s St. Vincent de Paul Outreach, which annually serves 50,000 people, distributing shoes, bus cards, gas cards and thrift store vouchers for clothing and household needs.

Building a community

Creating and updating meeting space is one way the basilica parish is preparing for growth and for the future, Hjelm said.

“It’s important to continue to attract young people,” she said, and the Basilica Block Party is one way to do that. She called it “a gentle, subtle invitation” to people to learn more about the Catholic Church.

“I was one of those people,” Hjelm said. “I wasn’t even Catholic when I started volunteering at the block party. I am now, and I’m a member of the basilica.”

The community-building aspect of the event is another intangible benefit of the block party, she added.

“There’s something magical about 1,600 volunteers coming together over a beautiful July weekend to work at the event,” Hjelm said. “It’s memorable in a way nothing else is.

“Plus, we’re able to share a bit about our mission and the landmark in a way that’s hard to put a dollar amount on. We will accept the dollars, though,” she added.

Although she’s on maternity leave after having delivered a baby girl recently, Hjelm has a new job at the block party this July, one that gives evidence to something basilica staffers have seen over the years: marriages of people who met working at or attending the Basilica Block Party.

“I’ll be helping coordinate people who want to propose at the block party,” Hjelm said.

“It’s been pretty consistent; every year for the past 15 I know of, we’ve had people who propose.”

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Category: Local News