Was the Minneapolis Aquatennial established to distract from labor strikes?

21 July 2023

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Beginning in 1940, a group of Minneapolis businessmen created the Aquatennial, a civic festival and parade, to “improve Minneapolis’s reputation nationally” following labor strikes in the 1930s, according to the Minnesota Historical Society. 

In 1934, Minneapolis Teamsters Local 574 began unionizing truckers against the Citizens Alliance, a coalition of Minneapolis businesses and business leaders. Local 574 picketed for shorter hours, improved pay and union recognition but the demands were not met. 

Strikes led by Teamsters, drivers and inside workers would begin in May with violent skirmishes in which two strikebreakers were killed. Then, on July 20, police fired upon strikers, injuring over 60 and killing two. 

In August, then-Governor Floyd B. Olson met union demands and protestors claimed victory. Between 1935 to 1941, union groups held picnics and carnivals in celebration. 

By 1941, the business-sponsored Aquatennial had taken the union picnics’ place. The Aquatennial occurs in the third full week of July.

This fact brief is responsive to conversations such as this one


Minnesota Historical Society History of Aquatennial
Minnesota Historical Society 1934 Teamsters Strike
Minnesota Historical Society Aquatennial collection overview
Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation Aquatennial history

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