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How One Of North Loop’s Biggest Parties Got Its Strange Name

The only things you really need to know about Nershfest, the big block party returning August 10th at Inbound BrewCo, is that it features five live bands, three food trucks, lots of beer and free admission before 8pm. (There’s a $10 cover after 8).

But Inbound’s general manager, Emily Elmer, is ready for the usual question: “What is Nershfest?”

“It’s whatever you think it is,” she says.It’s dancing in the road, it’s fun outside, it’s the neighborhood, it’s just getting together and having a good time.”

But what about that name? That’s where it gets a little goofy.

The three founders of Nershfest, who are not affiliated with Inbound, started the festival in their backyard after being inspired by Bill Nershi, a musician they’ve never met and who has no ties to Minnesota.

L to R: Emily Elmer, Adam Marks, Griffin Roer, Sam Gondeck

Back in 2012, Adam Marks, Griffin Roer and Sam Gondeck were young roommates in Uptown when they attended a music festival in Lutsen where Nershi was playing with his band, The String Cheese Incident.

“A couple days later, Griffin and Sam called me and were like, ‘hey man, we’re thinking, like we should start a music festival and we should call it Nershfest,'” Adam recalls. “And they said, ‘you should make the poster,’ since I have a background in design. And it kind of just came together like that.”

The early years of Nershfest

The first couple of years, Nershfest had no live bands, just streaming recorded music, but the roommates invited friends and family as if they had a star-studded lineup in the backyard, as illustrated in Adam’s poster.

“Every 30 minutes, we would have a different artist play, like, ‘oh, you’ve got to come over at 2:00 because Beyonce’s playing at 2, then we’re putting Wings on at 2:30 and then the Grateful Dead are playing at 3,'” Sam said. “We would get it as exact and precise as possible on the minute, the music will change.”

After a couple years, though, as the roommates started meeting their future wives and moving out of their Uptown home, they decided they still wanted to keep Nershfest alive, this time with live bands at breweries. They started at the former Harriet Brewing then Summit Brewing before getting a call from Emily who lured them to Inbound in the North Loop in 2017.

To this day, the three men still help organize it–scouting bands throughout the year with Adam drawing up the poster–while Emily, affectionately known as “Mama Nersh,” takes care of logistics and other event details.

“Nershfest is like a passion project for us,” Adam said. “It’s so important to support local venues, local businesses that value live music and offer a stage for live musicians here locally.” 

“At the end of the day, you feel like you’re leaving a wedding,” Sam said.

The block party officially starts at noon on North 5th Street outside Inbound. Live music goes from 2-10pm, followed by a silent disco inside the taproom at 10.

By Mike Binkley, North Loop volunteer

Bill Nershi Photo credit: Jon R. Luini

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