Homegrown Music Festival Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Homegrown is the area’s biggest musical extravaganza

Homegrown had its humble beginning in 1998 when Scott Lunt (a former area DJ) celebrated his 30th birthday party with five bands. Little did he know that in 1999, it would become a weekend festival with ten acts and would keep growing from there. Lunt has since become known as the unofficial founder of Homegrown.

Over the years, this annual community celebration of music has expanded into an eight-day festival. For this year’s Homegrown, they expect 165+ bands representing every musical style and 35+ eclectic venues all over town. Homegrown also features a children’s showcase, poetry, visual art, film, fire spinning, a kickball game and much more.

Homegrown venues come in all shapes and sizes. Photo submitted.

Many of the festival’s events are free of charge and accessible to audiences of all ages. Celebrating its 25 anniversary this year, the event will run from April 30-May 7.

The First Annual Homegrown March Mixer, is Saturday, March 25th, starting at 4 pm. at Blacklist Brewery and Taproom. The Mixer will provide local musicians, venue employees, artists and others a chance to meet and network.

Throughout its history, Homegrown has featured up-and-coming bands, total newcomers, and bands that have become famous — the band “Low,” formed in 1993 and led by Alan Sparhawk (guitar and vocals) and the late Mimi Parker(drums and vocals). In 2003 another band debut went on to become famous. "There weren’t a lot of new bands in the 2003 Homegrown," according to the Homegrown History webpage, "but one of them would later become Homegrown’s biggest draw — Trampled by Turtles. The group was a four-piece at the time and hadn’t come up with its name, so the show was listed on the schedule as “Dave Simonette Band,” misspelling Simonett’s name."

The Homegrown Field Guide helps attendees choose from more than 150 bands. Submitted photo.

Tony Bennett, area writer, editor, and musician  came on board Homegrown in the second year with his band “The Dames” and has also played with the band “Cars and Trucks.”

He said, “I just think music is the greatest form of art humans have created, and a festival dedicated to celebrating original music from the region is a great thing. It's a communal celebration of this thing I love.”

Board member Jason Beckman, who has been attending the festival since 2003, said, “Homegrown always indicates a return to spring when people are ready to get out and about and have a good time after a long winter. It gives people a chance to try different venues, and get experience with some bands they may have never heard before, along with their favorites.”

Homegrown Admission, Locations and Theme Nights

During Homegrown, admission wristbands can be purchased at any venue that requires them. Advance tickets are available at Globe News (Superior, WI) and Zenith Bookstore (Duluth, MN), and remain on sale throughout the week of Homegrown. Wristbands do not guarantee entry to venues at capacity.

Weeklong Wristband: All eight days – $40

Single-day Wristband: Friday or Saturday – $25

Single-night: Monday through Thursday – $15

Part of the fun of Homegrown is visiting a variety of venues throughout the city, with one night featuring mostly Superior locales. Specific sites are given in the annual Homegrown “field guide,” also featuring artistic representations of the festival’s infamous chicken logo, and providing participants with venues, bands, times and more to help them navigate.

Sunday, April 30            Most events downtown Duluth

Monday, May 1               Most events downtown Duluth

Tuesday, May 2             Most events in the Canal Park area

Wednesday, May 3        Most events in the West End of Duluth

Thursday, May 4            Most events Superior

Friday/ Saturday /

Sunday, May 5-7            Most events downtown Duluth

Another way that participants can add to the fun is to dress for the various theme nights. While attire matching the themes is optional, getting into the spirit makes the week even more of a party.

Theme nights add to the eclectic vibe of Homegrown. Photo submitted.

25th Homegrown Sunday—Wearing merchandise from previous Homegrown or band shirts of those who have played

Moody Monday Dress Like Your Mood

Tacky Tuesday    Ugly/mismatched garb

Western Wednesday  Best cowboy gear for West Duluth Night

Trick or Treat Thursday  Halloween Costumes

Formal Friday Fancy outfits

Sexy Saturday Slinky, seductive clothing

Relaxation Sunday Comfortable attire

Leading the “Shenanigans”

Planning and putting on what some of them jokingly call the “shenanigans” of Homegrown are a dedicated group of board members and a steering committee.

Beckman said, “We are lucky to have a great board of directors and a steering committee who do most of the leg work on the ground, getting out to the venues.

Dereck Murphy-Williams, Interim Co-Director, started as a general committee member back in 2016 and has been taking on more responsibilities each year. This year he is heading Homegrown’s operations side, including volunteer coordination. “We couldn’t do it without all our great volunteers, many who come back every year,” he said.

The Great Lakes Aquarium is one of the dozens of venues for Homegrown. Submitted photo.

“This is such a great community get-together,” he noted. “The essence of Homegrown is hopping on the trolley and wandering between vendors. There is just a feeling in the air of being out with friends and people you may not have seen all winter. And the insane amount of talent makes this a fantastic week.”

Cory Jezierski, the other Interim Co-Director,  has worn a lot of hats for Homegrown over the years as well, including playing with bands. He has worked mostly on the production side including sound production,

“We’re proud that we really are homegrown with acts from area bands. Some of the musicians used to live here, moved way and came back.” Jezierski said. “The diversity is incredible with hip hop, rock, alternative, hard rock, punk rock, anything goes, with something for everyone. There are always new groups that people will love that they may not have seen before.”

Letting the Good Times Roll

For many dyed-in-the-wool local music lovers, Homegrown is as good as it gets. Meeting their friends, listening to an exciting mix of local talent onstage, and just making it the best rolling party in town and a sort of annual reunion for many.

Musicians of all stripes are here to support each other and to build their audience. While festival-goers are guaranteed the most variety and bang for their buck, exploring all the festival has to offer.

Homegrown is an 8-day rolling party. Photo submitted.

“It depends on what you're looking for, but you can find just about anything you want,” added Bennett. “If you want to chill out to ambient music, you can. If you wanna get in a mosh pit, you can. It's a Whitman's Sampler of local music.”

And Scott Lunt? He is still rocking on and will be back celebrating his 50th birthday this year, reveling in how far his original little birthday bash has come!

For more information on Homegrown, visit their website at duluthhomegrown.org or their Facebook page.

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