5 April 2022
DULUTH — An author who has made Duluth’s past his muse will open Twin Ports Festival of History with an examination into how, in the past 160-plus years, the city has morphed to its current long, lean hound dog shape.
Tony Dierckins’ presentation “1856-1950: From a ‘Pile of Rocks’ to a ‘Dachshund of a City'” covers the booms, busts and annexations that turned this place into a 28-mile long stretch of city. It is one of several throwback tales offered during the free innaugural six-day festival offering more than a dozen topics at historic local venues.
“You’ve got to make history fun — I love finding the quirky along with the stories,” said Dierckins, who plans to pull content from his unrealized book tour for “Duluth: An Urban Biography” published by Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2020. His in-person events were canceled by COVID-19.
Twin Ports Festival of History, which starts Wednesday and runs through Monday, is based on a similar event held in Ireland, where David Woodward, a history instructor at the University of Minnesota Duluth, has spent time on a long-term project. He thought this style of event was a good fit for Duluth, he said, which also has a rich history and heritage.
Sessions include a walking tour of Duluth’s maritime history, a look at race in Minnesota and crime in northern Minnesota’s Koochiching County. For a full schedule, go to the Twin Ports Festival of History Facebook page.
“I don’t want to make it a dry academic talk,” Woodward said. “This is about bringing history and heritage to the public at large.”
He is presenting with colleague and co-organizer Steve Matthews on a topic that goes beyond the lure of local: “Explorations in Irish Heritage: Archaeology, Remote Sensing, and Early Galway, Ireland.”
And, in turn, Irish presenter James Curry, who is coming to town for the event, is offering a portrait of Jack Carney, journalist and activist, who made his way to Duluth after the 1916 Easter Rising. He edited Truth, a newspaper for the local Scandinavian socialists, before he published a single edition of the newspaper Irish Felon.
Woodward wants to make the Festival of History an annual event — something akin to the local eight-day music festival held every year in early May.
“I want to say it’s Homegrown for history geeks,” he said.