Tour groups can embellish their trip to Minnesota by including special annual events like the Judy Garland Festival, Minnesota Renaissance Festival and one of the biggest state fairs in the country.

Every corner of Minnesota stages group-friendly festivals throughout the year. Chances are, there will be something special on the calendar when your group visits, whether it’s a big-city shindig or small-town party. From ethnic festivals to a mega state fair, a kaleidoscope of annual events awaits group travelers. Here is a just a sampling:

Judy Garland Festival, Grand Rapids

June 10-15

The Judy Garland Museum every year honors the legendary singer and movie star, born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids in 1922. There are lectures, stage performances and The Wizard of Oz film showings. Visitors are encouraged to wear their favorite Oz character costume. This year’s 38th annual festival marks the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz (1939) movie, and the museum debuts its new 3,000-piece Wizard of Oz exhibit. (judygarland

Scandinavian Hjemkomst & Midwest Viking Festivals, Moorhead

June 27-28

These two festivals join forces to celebrate Nordic culture from ancient times to today. The Viking Festival, a gathering of living history enthusiasts from throughout the Upper Midwest, showcases Viking games, battle demonstrations and crafts like coin striking and chainmail production. The Scandinavian Festival celebrates Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Danish cultures with ethnic foods, crafts and music. The events take place at the Hjemkomst Center, home of the Viking ship that sailed from Minnesota to Norway in 1982. (

Bayfront Blues Festival, Duluth

Aug. 8-10

Showcasing nearly 30 national performances on two concert stages, this is one of the Midwest’s largest outdoor music festivals. Events also include a Moonlight Mardi Gras Cruise and blues acts at nearly 20 nightclubs. The event takes place in Canal Park on Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. (

Minnesota Renaissance Festival, Shakopee

Aug. 16-Sept. 28

Journey back in time to a 16th century European village at one of the country’s largest renaissance fairs, now in its 44th year. Highlights include jousting by knights in armor, elephant rides, belly dancing, games, entertainment on 16 stages and 120 food booths. Some 250 artisan booths sell everything from period attire to real battle axes. The event, held on weekends, welcomes almost 300,000 people each year. (

Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul

Aug. 21-Sept. 1

Spice up your Twin Cities visit with a late-summer fling at the “Great Minnesota Get-Together.” Savor food on a stick, see farm animals being born and enjoy Mighty Midway carnival rides, big-name touring acts, a daily parade, rodeo, horse shows, agricultural exhibits, and arts and crafts displays. One of the nation’s largest state fairs, it attracts more than two million visitors annually. (

Oktoberfest, New Ulm

Oct. 3-4, 10-11

This Old World celebration, held in a Southern Minnesota town that touts its German heritage, features German brass bands, polka bands and New Ulm’s famous Concord Singers. Fest-goers enjoy German food and August Schell beer, brewed locally since 1860. The festival is held at four locations–downtown (the site of a musical glockenspiel, plus German restaurants and import shops), the brewery, Morgan Creek Vineyards and Holiday Inn. (

Big Island Rendezvous & Festival, Albert Lea

Oct. 4-5

More than 1,000 living history re-enactors bring the fur trade era (1650-1840) to life. This celebration of frontier America features a voyageur encampment with hundreds of tents and campfires, music performances by groups from throughout the U.S. and Canada, and demonstrations of Native American and pioneer skills. Try your hand at spoon carving or watch a gunsmith create a work of art. Food includes wild rice soup, smoked turkey legs, pork chops on a stick, and Indian tacos and fry bread. (

St. Paul Winter Carnival

Late January-early February

The “Coolest Celebration on Earth” includes day and nighttime parades, ice-carving and snow-sculpting competitions, ice skating, golf on ice and car races on ice-covered lakes, plus stage entertainment and vendor booths. The nation’s oldest winter festival takes place in downtown’s Rice Park, home of Winter Wonderland, and other locations. (