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Continental Divide music and film fest hits NY Mills tonight!

Cactus Blossoms take the stage on Friday night. Submitted photo1 / 5
The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra will perform on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Submitted photo2 / 5
Rock and folk musician Haley Bonar will close out Saturday's concerts with a show at 9:30 p.m. Submitted photo3 / 5
New York Mills musician Elisa Korenne will perform at 8:30 p.m. Submitted photo4 / 5
The Pines will play at 2 p.m. Submitted photo5 / 5

If you thought rural Minnesota was an artistic wasteland, make a point of attending the New York Mills Continental Divide Music and Film Festival this Friday and Saturday, August 17-18.

This new-again signature event, hosted by one of the state's leading arts organizations, the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, is sure to impress artistic gluttons and everyone else. 

Known nationally for its annual philosophy competition, The Great American Think Off, the cultural center demonstrates that living in a rural community doesn't need to mean living in cultural and intellectual isolation.

And this weekend, everyone will see how they do it. 

The center adds an artistic focus to the annual NY Mills Corn Feed, which will take place Friday from 4-7 p.m. At the Corn Feed, the NY Mills community celebrates its agricultural heritage with an outdoor party featuring free corn for all. Come and get corn from steaming vats and season it with salt shakers hanging from the roof by strings. 

Four years ago, the cultural center created a performance centerpiece for the Corn Feed, an annual Puppet Pageant, where a regional puppet artist leads theyoung and old in crafting original life-sized puppets in a performance. A script is written, players are recruited, puppets are built, and a story based on one of the many tales of the Finnish national epic poem, the Kalevala, is enacted by large-scale puppet figures.  The multidisciplinary pageant draws together music literature, visual arts, and dance in this exuberant art rooted in the heritage of NY Mills and the region. 

This year, to further enhance the Corn Feed and Puppet Pageant events, the cultural center is reinvigorating a tradition from 17 years ago: The Continental Divide Music and Film Festival. 

This festival will present dozens of Minnesota performing and film artists for two days of art performances, including short films and the very best in roots music. 

On Friday afternoon, the celebrations will begin with the Corn Feed, including two bouncy houses for the kids. From 4-6 p.m., there will be Steam Roller Printmaking, an artistic printmaking process that uses an actual steam roller to create prints. At 7 p.m., the Puppet Pageant will bring life-sized puppets to the street behind the cultural center. 

Right after the pageant, at about 7:45 p.m., the press-gathering country-western band Cactus Blossoms will perform.

Then, at 9:15 p.m., it will be time for the film portion of the Continental Divide Festival. This will be held upstairs in the City Hall Ballroom. Refreshments will be served. 

Two types of films will be shown: 1) Short films made by Minnesota filmmakers, such as Bridget Riversmith's dreamlike animation and Jill Johnson's modern interpretation of ancient cultural traditions; and 2) Films by residents of the region who wish to submit work not to exceed five minutes in length. 

All of Friday's events are free. 

Saturday is a day for music.

Doors open at the NY Mills V.F.W. at 11 a.m., and the performances begin at noon.

What can you expect?  Two stages and 10 hours of high energy and non-stop music - the very best in country, folk, bluegrass, and rock music by some of the best talents in Minnesota. 

Erik and Pete Keranen will start the music off on Saturday at noon. They will be followed by Pocahontas County at 12:30 p.m. (old time and bluegrass), Tim Sparks at 1:15 p.m. (world music), Erik Koskinen at 2 p.m. (country rock), Caitlin Robertson at 3:30 p.m. (folk/country), Galactic Cowboy Orchestra at 4:30 p.m. (rock/folk), The Pines at 7 p.m. (old time/bluegrass/ country), Elisa Korenne at 8:30 p.m. (rock, blues, and Minnesota originals), and Haley Bonar at 9:30 p.m. (rock/folk/country). 

Folk performer Larry Long from the very first Continental Divide Festival will be back to celebrate this new edition of the festival. 

Bring your lawn chairs and kick back to enjoy hours of musical entertainment.

Both days of the festival will also feature demonstrations by a mime and fire-eater, at Central Park on Friday at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., and at the V.F.W. on Saturday (time TBD).

Tickets to the entire day full of music are $20 and available at the cultural center, the V.F.W., or online at  A discount coupon is available for tickets bought in advance at the cultural center or V.F.W. Youth 12 and under are admitted free if accompanied by an adult. 

Camping will be available at the campground adjacent to the V.F.W. grounds on Friday and Saturday evenings for $15 per person for the weekend, with youth 12 and under with accompanying adults admitted free.