July 26, 2001: Crowd of 12,000 gathers for opening of Bayfront Festival Park 

On this day in Duluth in 2001, an estimated crowd of 12,000 celebrated the opening of Bayfront Festival Park, made possible by a $3 million donation from Lois M. Paulucci, wife of Duluth frozen food entrepreneur Jeno Paulucci. Mayor Gary Doty declared July 26 “Lois M. Paulucci Day,” two F-16 fighter jets passed over the park, and in a symbolic representation of Paulucci’s $3 million gift, three children presented her with three dozen roses and three bands performed after three skydivers descended on the stage of the new Lois M. Paulucci Music Pavilion. The park’s location—between Sixth and Seventh Avenues West along the St. Louis Bay—had hosted music events such as the Bluesfest since the mid 1980s, but had no permanent stage nor any other infrastructure and the grounds were not landscaped, which often caused muddy conditions. But music wasn’t why Paulucci supported the park. According to the Duluth News Tribune, “Paulucci wanted a park for families, and she wanted a park everyone could uses—accessible for those using strollers and wheelchairs. Duluthian and wheelchair user Tony Williams told the newspaper that before the improvements, the park was nearly inaccessible and “If it got wet, forget it.” He went on to praise Paulucci: “It’s awesome she’d take time to think of people like me…that she had the forethought to say everyone should be able to come and enjoy it.”

Lois Paulucci photographed in front of the pavilion funded by her generosity. (Image: Renee Knoeber6