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Collection on the Minneapolis Aquatennial

Identifier: M/A 0105

Description of Contents

The collection contains programs, scrapbooks, photographs, newspaper clippings, financial records, meeting minutes, press releases, realia (including buttons and plaques), and assorted papers documenting the Minneapolis Aquatennial from 1940 to the present.


  • Creation: 1940 - 2008


The collection is available for use in Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library during the department's open hours.


The Aquatennial is the official civic celebration of Minneapolis. It is held annually during the third full week of July. Originating in 1940, the outdoor festival celebrates the famous waters of Minneapolis—the lakes, streams, and the Mississippi. Historically, the Aquatennial was under the leadership of the Minneapolis Aquatennial Association, but in 2003 the rights to the festival were sold to the Minneapolis Downtown Association.

Formerly known as “The Ten Best Days of Summer,” it is now advertised as “The Best Days of Summer.” Events include sports, games, parades, music performances, fireworks, and more, and are held all over the city of Minneapolis, often near the city’s lakes. During the Aquatennial’s early years, it was one of the most popular summer festivals. The festival has changed throughout the years, but some events have remained since 1940.

The Aqua Follies (which ended in 1964 due to budgetary reasons) and the Paul Bunyan Canoe Derby were two popular events that are no longer a part of the Aquatennial. During the early years of the Aquatennial, celebrities and politicians made many appearances. Gene Autry made an appearance in 1940, and other celebrities included: Bob Hope, The Lone Ranger, Bob Barker, Natalie Wood, Arthur Godfrey, Eddie Cantor, and Richard Nixon. During the 1967 festival, Buffalo Springfield and Jefferson Airplane performed in a concert.

One of the most popular events of the Aquatennial is the crowning of the Queen of the Lakes. The Queen of the Lakes has remained a tradition since the festival’s first year. In addition to the Queen, other Aquatennial royalty include Ambassadors, the Commodore, Captains, Princesses, and Senior Ambassadors. The Queen of the Lakes, the Aquatennial Royalty, and the Ambassadors are expected to represent Minnesota and the Minneapolis Aquatennial throughout their year-long reign.

Each year the official badge of the festival is the Skipper Pin. Since the first year, the Skipper Pin has been a collectible piece of Aquatennial history and is made available for purchase. The Torchlight Parade, originally called Illuminated Evening Parade, typically draws a large crowd. Other events that have remained popular throughout the years include music, food, and fireworks. Some popular, but short-lived, events included the Milk Carton Boat Race, which began in 1971, and the Sandcastle Sand Sculpture competition.


8.75 Linear Feet (7 boxes, 18 volumes, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials


Donor Information

Materials in this collection have accumulated over several decades from multiple sources. The collection is compiled and organized by Special Collections staff.

Collection on the Minneapolis Aquatennial
Melissa Marts
May 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Hennepin County Library Special Collections Repository

Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis MN 55401 U.S.A.