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East and Central Hillsides unite for a day

A jump from 2012’s Hillfest. (Photo by Jennifer Wussow)1 / 2
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For one night a year, the virtual barrier between East Hillside and Central is broken. The intersection of East 4th Street and 6th Avenue East is closed off from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 24, for Hillfest, a day of music, food and games.“The whole community comes together,” said James Gittemeier, event coordinator. “Young and old, everybody from their different backgrounds comes together on the street. The community-building part to me is really exciting.”

This is the fourth annual HillFest. It was started by local community organizer Archie Davis, who had the vision to remove the barrier that the heavily-trafficked corridor of Sixth Avenue East creates between the Central and East Hillside neighborhoods. He wanted to unify the neighborhood, even if for only a short period time.

The event will kick off with music from the World Beat Drummers, formerly known as the Nettleton Drummers. A variety of games and activities will take place, such as a climbing wall, facepainting, a non-motorized all-wheel parade, animals from the Lake Superior Zoo, vendors, arts, crafts, food and a performance by the Duluth Playhouse.

“This is the most diverse neighborhood in all of the Twin Ports. It’s great to see everybody out in the street for one day, everybody from longtime residents to students to whoever is here that day,” said Shannon Szymkowiak, of Whole Foods Co-op. “You really see a true variety of people at Hillfest.”

One featured fundraiser is the Tofu Toss, sponsored by the Whole Foods Co-op. The proceeds of the team fees and referee bribes will go to Mind2Mind, an after-school program for Hillside kids.

“It’s the same idea as an egg toss, where you have two people and they toss an egg back and forth, as the egg drops teams are eliminated,” Szymkowiak said. “We do it with tofu. We kind of give the teams a little bit of a hard time; it’s very good-natured fun. The teams will bring cash to bribe the referee. If they want to stay in the game once they drop the tofu right away, somebody might peel off a few bills and bribe the referee to stay in the game.”

“What it is in a nutshell is it gives people an opportunity to come together like they cannot do the rest of the year,” Gittemeier said. “It really brings the neighborhoods together.”

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