Lake Minnetonka Summer Community Festivals

We’ve got your go-to guide for summertime community festivals in the lake area.
Residents and visitors fill the streets of Wayzata every September for the annual James J. Hill Days celebration.


Excelsior’s Art on the Lake, June 9–10

Art on the Lake started 32 years ago as a chance for local artists to showcase their talents. “It was conceived as a one-day street fair,” says Linda Murrell, executive director of the South Lake-Excelsior Chamber of Commerce. As the street fair grew in popularity, it moved to Excelsior Commons as a one-day show; in 2001, Art on the Lake became a two-day festival. “Through hard work and persistence, the art festival has earned a solid reputation for displaying fine and fun original art—no crafts—by regional and national artists,” Murrell says. The Chamber took over management of the festival in 2008, and it’s staffed by several community volunteers who donate hours of work each year.

Aside from browsing through art and buying a masterpiece for your home, attendees can sample loads of favorite summer concessions. “There are always good munchies,” says Murrell. “It’s what you would expect at the State Fair.” You can eat fun food like sweet corn or ice cream, but don’t miss the hearty fare like pasta or gyros. Children can try their hand at art projects in the Kids Art Tent, and anyone can ride the Minnehaha Streetcar boat for a discounted rate.


Long Lake/Orono SummerFest, June 19–24

SummerFest celebrates all that’s fun in a Minnesota summer. After a sluggish economy prompted the end of Buckhorn days in 2008, local merchants and residents alike missed the local festival atmosphere. “We wanted to see something like Buckhorn Days come back to life in our area,” says Kris Rudd, a member of the Long Lake Area Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors. Plus, organizers hoped to bring more attention to the assets of the Long Lake/Orono area. So the Long Lake Area Chamber pushed to organize a new weeklong community festival celebrating summer mostly at Nelson Lakeside Park on Long Lake.

Whether you golf, bike or run, SummerFest offers athletes a chance to compete with friends and neighbors. Besides a week of races, contests and sporting events, there’s a teen dance for middle- and high-school-aged students, Yoga on the Beach, a ski show, and a Kids Zone full of bouncy houses and rambunctious fun. Admission at Nelson Lakeside Park is free on Big Bang Saturday (some fees still apply) and wraps up with the biggest bang of all—a firework show starting around 9:45 p.m.


Burwell House Old-fashioned Ice Cream Social and Minnetonka Summer Festival, June 23

No summer festival is complete without ice cream, and there’s always plenty of creamy goodness to go around at the Burwell House Old-fashioned Ice Cream Social (10 a.m.–3:30 p.m.). and Minnetonka Summer Festival (4–11 p.m.). Attendees are encouraged to bike between the two locations of the joint festival: the Minnetonka Civic Center and the grounds of the historic Burwell House. The event, hosted by the City of Minnetonka, emphasizes hometown, old-fashioned festival fun with races, local bands and pony rides.

At the Burwell House, learn about Minnetonka history, then browse for antiques at the popular antique fair or check out arts and crafts from local artists. If you’d like something more filling than a scoop of ice cream, you can pick up a brat, hot dog or another bit of tasty festival fare. Look for special organic collection sites to recycle that last pinch of food as the organizers are trying to make this event as environmentally friendly as possible. Even though the event is held all day long, expect the biggest crowds to come out later in the evening (10 p.m.) for the firework show.


Wayzata Art Experience, June 23–24

Wayzata’s spring event showcases high-quality art in one of the first outdoor festivals of the year. Whether the preferred medium is clay, canvas or corduroy, regional artists show off unique pieces of artwork during the two-day event along downtown’s Lake Street. The Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce started the Wayzata Art Experience to promote the elegance of the region through art, and nine years later, blocks of visual, culinary and performance art draw in thousands of visitors annually.

Festival-goers can stroll while watching artists at work or stop to tap their toes to a musician with an instrument; younger art lovers can experience art with hands-on projects in the Children’s Area. Local landscapers and garden designers will create outdoor garden exhibits to get green thumbs ready for planting season. Finally, sample cuisine from area restaurants while watching the chefs in action. No matter your preference, the Wayzata Art Experience offers a high-quality feast for your senses.



Mound’s Spirit of the Lakes, July 13–15 and 18–22

In honor of Mound’s centennial celebration, the annual Spirit of the Lakes is extended to a second weekend this year. This is truly a festival by the community, for the community. Based on the shores of Lake Minnetonka in Mound, the festival highlights area art, commerce and entertainment. The first weekend is all about health and wellness, with races volleyball, fishing contests and a health fair. The second returns to the festival’s artistic roots. “This is an opportunity for local artists and businesses to showcase their work as well as gather with the collective lake-area community,” says Kristin Beise, one of the event organizers.

The festival was started 25 years ago by a group of businesses who wanted to promote the area. It moved around and even went on hiatus until a committee organized exclusively for event in 2006. Now, it offers a diverse array of activities that appeal to anyone.

In fact, Spirit of the Lakes thrives on diversity. Visitors can see a roller derby scrimmage, a rockabilly concert or even belly dancers; they can attend a wine tasting, a street dance or a historical boat tour. At the center of the action at Surfside Park and Beach (formerly Mound Bay Park), attendees can peruse vendors, see arts and crafts, and find plenty of activities to occupy the kids. No summertime festival is complete without fireworks, and Spirit of the Lakes claims to have the best firework show on Lake Minnetonka starting around 10 p.m. July 21.



Long Lake’s Corn Days, August 11–12

There’s no better place to enjoy a roasted ear of sweet corn than in Long Lake at the vegetable’s signature festival. Corn Days, hosted by the Church of St. George, features fun kids’ and teens’ carnival games like ring toss and bouncy houses, a petting zoo and local bands. Sample festival food or save up your appetite for a special dinner sponsored by Gear West.  

On Sunday, wake up early for a pancake breakfast hosted by the Knights of Columbus, and then jog off your calories on a four-mile run. If the weather turns iffy or you just need a break, go inside for the silent auction and bingo. All funds raised benefit the missions and projects of the Church of St. George, but community groups sponsor different events, like the Long Lake Area Chamber of Commerce who organizes the parade.



Excelsior’s Apple Day, September 8

Since 1985, Excelsior’s Apple Day has celebrated the transition into the fall season on the first Saturday after Labor Day. “It’s the last hurrah of summer,” says LaVerna Leipold, one of the event organizers. Booths featuring crafts, antiques and collectables dot Water Street between Lake Drive and Oak Street. Local merchants bring their wares al fresco for the public to peruse, and local authors bring books to sell and autograph. Festival-goers can nibble on finger food while shopping for fresh produce for dinner. There are even classic cars on Second Street and antique boats on Lake Minnetonka.

But the day is really all about apples. Locals used to observe Apple Day back in the 1930s, and the Red Wagon Parade is a tribute to the doll-buggy parade from the old-time festival. Children dress up in costumes featuring apples and pull red wagons down Water Street. Local bakers can put their favorite recipes to the test in an apple pie contest, and those in attendance can dine on fresh apples, caramel apples or apple sundaes as they walk the streets. Pick up a bag or bushel of apples from several local orchards that set up displays. The event is sponsored by the South Lake-Excelsior Chamber of Commerce, and is free and open to the public.


Wayzata’s James J. Hill Days, September 8–9*

The city of Wayzata celebrates one of the most colorful characters in its history, James J. Hill, in a two-day festival bearing his name. The festival honors the man who brought the Great Northern Railroad to the city in 1857, which turned a sleepy pioneer town into a summer tourist destination. Featured events like the open-air market, dachshund races and garden expo have long given attendees plenty of reason to crowd the streets of Wayzata at the end of the summer.

The Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce has been hosting the festival for the past 38 years. “It’s basically your general town fair,” organizer Brooke Beyer says. Whether it’s knowledge you are seeking about garden, home, health, wellness or area businesses, there are several opportunities to learn by stopping at booths at a variety of expos. If you don’t have a dachshund to compete in a race, then watch area children compete in the popular coaster car derby. Kids ages 6–16 construct cars out of cardboard or wood, and race for bragging rights and trophies. Shoppers can also check out antiques, handmade goods and fine art in the marketplace. A parade caps off the event downtown on Sunday.

* Dates and events are in flux and might be changed or canceled.