WAYZATA — Tens of thousands of people will head to downtown Wayzata this weekend for the 45th annual James J. Hill Days.

What’s called “Lake Minnetonka’s largest three-day festival” attracts around 70,000 people to the city of around 4,500 to mark the end of summer and celebrate Wayzata’s history, according to the Greater Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the annual event.

The festival, which kicks off Friday evening, will feature community favorites, such as the carnival, parade, beer festival, dachshund races and fireworks, as well as an expanded music lineup and three new additions to James J. Hill Days — the Retroshift Car Show, the Night Market and Mobile Ninja Anywhere.

The Retroshift Car Show will feature 20-plus unique, vintage motoring cars on Lake Street during the Friday Night Market, which will host around 60 vendors selling everything from arts and crafts to sports, home and garden and health and wellness items. The Street Market will continue on Saturday and Sunday with around 250 vendors.

“Many have asked about more on Friday night rather than just set up and Rails and Ales. So we are testing the idea this year with a Night Market and several activities around it with food, music, vendors and a small very unique car show,” Becky Pierson, president of the Greater Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce, told Lakeshore Weekly News.

The third new attraction at this year’s event is Mobile Ninja Anywhere — a traveling ninja fitness course for kids and adults. See what it’s like to be the next American Ninja Warrior by running up a warped wall, hanging from a hamster wheel or swinging on rings.

Something missing from James J. Hill Days this year is the Wayzata Beach Bash. Although not part of the official end-of-summer event, the Wayzata Beach Bash concert has been held the same weekend in downtown Wayzata for the past six years. However, organizers of the annual concert announced in August that the Beach Bash wouldn’t happen this year because they “weren’t able to lock down the level of talent that the event has become accustomed to and deserves,” but promised to be back in 2020 “with the intent of making it the best Beach Bash ever.”

Festivalgoers won’t be without live music, though. James J. Hill Days will feature expanded free music lineup throughout the three-day event, including performances from Black Van, Stephanie Varone & Startlette’s Web, Chad Edwards Band, Powertap, The Plott Hounds, Free & Easy and School of Rock on the community stage on Lake Street.

“We are looking forward to another great weekend to celebrate with the community for a 45th year,” Pierson said. “Weather is looking great and we hope everyone comes out to enjoy the activities all three days as there is something unique each day.”

James J. Hill Days has been held the weekend after Labor Day since 1975 as a way to celebrate Wayzata’s history and James J. Hill, the prolific historical figure who once owned the Great Northern Railroad Company. Hill built the Wayzata Depot in 1906 and is credited with putting Wayzata on the map as a tourist destination on Lake Minnetonka.

Melissa Turtinen is the multimedia reporter for Lakeshore Weekly News. She's passionate about adding context to stories and informing people about what's going on in their community. She enjoys being outside, traveling and good beer.

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