2018 Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Readers’ Choice Award Winners



Photo by Aaron Davidson

Photo by Aaron Davidson

Comedy Club – Acme Comedy Company

Acme is the crown jewel of the Twin Cities’ comedy scene, catering to both nationally acclaimed comedians and newcomers alike. As a North Loop mainstay, Acme has jump-started the careers of countless comics (including our next winner).

Silver: Brave New Workshop

Bronze: Sisyphus Brewing


Photo via Nick Swardson Facebook

Photo via Nick Swardson Facebook

Local Comedian – Nick Swardson

An alum of St. Paul Central High School, Nick Swardson broke through to the national stage with his work in stand-up, acting, and screenwriting. He gained popularity locally at Acme and the now-defunct Knuckleheads Comedy Club before moving to New York, and has since been featured on Comedy Central and the big screen.

Silver: Cy Amundson

Bronze: Mary Mack


Photo via MIA Flickr

Art Museum or Gallery – Minneapolis Institute of Art

As the oldest and largest art museum in the Twin Cities, Mia houses approximately 80,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of history. With their Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program, they try to spotlight local artists and exhibitions.

Silver: Walker Art Center

Bronze: The Museum of Russian Art


Photo courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Photo courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Science or History Museum – Science Museum of Minnesota

Even for the hard-to-please middle school field trip crowd, the Science Museum never fails to make science cool. In just one building, you can swim with whales in the Omnitheater, feel the beat of a heart in the human body exhibit, and explore your musical side on the sonic stairs. 

Silver: Minnesota Children’s Museum

Bronze: Bell Museum


Photo via Wild Rumpus Bookstore Facebook

Photo via Wild Rumpus Bookstore Facebook

Bookstore – Wild Rumpus

Cats, chinchillas, chickens, and other furry and feathery friends roam the aisles. A canoe floats upside-down along the river-painted ceiling. This, plus a crew of friendly, informed staff members makes it easy to see why this mainstay has been a favorite of locals and visitors.

Silver: Moon Palace Books

Bronze: Magers and Quinn Booksellers


Photo via Leviticus Tattoos Website

Photo via Leviticus Tattoos Website

Tattoo Parlour – Leviticus Tattoo

The staff at Leviticus treats every commission as a work of art—a level of dedication and attention to detail that’s also found throughout the parlour itself. Leviticus is the kind of place you want to hang out at even if you’re not in the market for jazzing up your skin.

Silver: Tiger Rose Tattoo

Bronze: Uptown Tattoo


Photo via Erik's Bike Shop Facebook

Photo via Erik’s Bike Shop Facebook

Bike Shop – Erik’s Bike Shop

Starting out of his parents’ barn at the age of 13, Erik quickly grew his business and opened his first store at 18. There are now locations across Minnesota and Wisconsin, carrying all-things bike, snowboard, and ski.

Silver: The Hub Bike Co-Op

Bronze: Angry Catfish


Photo via Level Up Games Facebook

Photo via Level Up Games Facebook

Comic Book or Game Shop – Level Up Games

Level Up Games offers a marketplace to buy, sell, or trade card games, board games, and video games. But they don’t stop there—each location also has open gaming spaces for people to demo new games or just throw down a good ol’ game of Magic.

Silver: Fantasy Flight Games

Bronze: Source Comics & Games


Photo via REI Facebook

Photo via REI Facebook

Outdoors Store – REI, Bloomington

With all the gear you could possibly want for virtually every outdoor activity, REI also offers classes and guided trips to spots near and far, effectively eliminating any excuse for not getting out there for both weathered backpackers and hesitant newcomers.

Silver: Duluth Pack

Bronze: Midwest Mountaineering


A Growler Magazine photo

Photo by Barbara O’Brien Photography

Minnesota Heritage Brand – Red Wing Shoes

Red Wing Shoes has been making quality, handmade shoes and boots for more than 100 years. Their recent foray into women’s footwear made the already popular company even more so, and it’s showing no signs of wear and tear.

Silver: Duluth Pack

Bronze: Minnetonka Moccasins


Photo via Gooseberry Falls State Park Website

State Park – Gooseberry Falls State Park

A trip to Gooseberry Falls is an unofficial rite of passage for any Minnesotan. Though best-known for its eponymous waterfalls, the state park also contains picturesque hiking trails that lead to the shores of our greatest lake, which also happens to be Kind-of-a-Big-Deal.

Silver: Tettegouche State Park

Bronze: Itasca State Park


Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Lake – Lake Superior

Lake Superior, the second largest lake by volume in the world, was first given the Ojibwe name gichi-gami, meaning “great sea.” In addition to creating its own weather patterns and inspiring one of Gordon Lightfoot’s biggest hits, it even has its own wonderfully witty Twitter account.

Silver: Lake Harriet

Bronze: Lake Nokomis

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Photo by Kevin Kramer

Photo by Kevin Kramer

Community Festival (Minneapolis & St. Paul) – Minnesota State Fair

The fair brings millions of people from across the state each year to eat ungodly amounts of fried food and bond a usual sweltering heat. With all of the attractions, the State Fair might literally have something for everyone.

Silver: Art-a-Whirl

Bronze: Twin Cities Pride Festival


Photo courtesy Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Photo courtesy Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Community Festival (Greater Minnesota) – Minnesota Renaissance Festival

From the authentic dress of workers and devoted attendees to the Medieval-style heckling, it’s enough to make any visitor want to bite into a turkey leg and join in the festivities.

Silver: All Pints North

Bronze: New Ulm Oktoberfest


Photo courtesy Cities 97 Basilica Block Party

Photo courtesy Cities 97 Basilica Block Party

Music Festival – Basilica Block Party

Cities 97’s two-day musical block party started in 1995 as a fundraiser for the restoration of the Basilica of St. Mary. It’s become a summer must for music fans and church-supporters alike, featuring headliners like Gary Clark Jr., Brandi Carlile, and Father John Misty across three stages. 

Silver: Rock the Garden

Bronze: Rock Bend Folk Festival


Photo by Aaron Job

Photo by Aaron Job

Music Venue – First Avenue

First Avenue is practically synonymous with Minneapolis—it officially became First Ave in 1981, but it was its role in Prince’s 1984 film “Purple Rain” that brought it to the forefront of Minneapolis venues and quickly made it a go-to stop for acts of every genre of music.

Silver: Palace Theatre

Bronze: The Armory


Photo via Bayfront Music Festival Park Website, by Shawn Thompson

Photo via Bayfront Music Festival Park Website, by Shawn Thompson

Outdoor Music Venue – Bayfront Festival Park

Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park holds a diverse bill of concerts and events throughout the year. This July alone saw Hairball, Trampled by Turtles, and Bones Thugs-N-Harmony take the stage over. If you can’t find something there that you enjoy, then we cannot help you.

Silver: Surly Festival Field

Bronze: Weesner Amphitheater at the Minnesota Zoo


Photo via Electric Fetus Facebook

Photo via Electric Fetus Facebook

Record Store – The Electric Fetus

Those who shopped there when it opened in the ’60s will undoubtedly tell the tale of the “Streaker’s Sale.” From its free-swingin’ beginnings to today, the Fetus has bravely brought old-school analog into the digital age, offering vinyl LPs and CDs both popular and obscure.

Silver: Cadence Records & Coffee

Bronze: Hymie’s Vintage Records


Photo via Trampled By Turtles Facebook

Photo via Trampled By Turtles Facebook

Local Music Group or Band – Trampled by Turtles

In addition to the fandom they’ve garnered here in Minnesota, the fast-strumming bluegrass group has made a name for their hometown throughout the U.S., creating an air of mystique about Duluth among their out-of-state fans.

Silver: Parachute Pandas

Bronze: Atmosphere


Photo by Hannah Hoffman

Photo by Hannah Hoffman

Local Solo Music Artist – Dessa

A skilled writer, poet, rapper, and musician, Dessa has been a prominent creative voice in the Minnesota arts scenes since her debut with hip-hop collective Doomtree in 2008. Though her talent has ascended to the national stage, she stays unwaveringly loyal to her hometown of Minneapolis.

Silver: Charlie Parr

Bronze: jeremy messersmith


Photo via Trampled By Turtles YouTube, Artwork by Michael Byzewski

Photo via Trampled By Turtles YouTube, Artwork by Michael Byzewski

Local Album – “Life is Good on the Open Road” by Trampled by Turtles

After a year apart working on separate projects, the beloved bluegrass band reunited in a Cannon Falls studio to record their eighth album. The album is a joyous reunion of friends returning to the racing bluegrass and tender ballads for which they’re known and beloved.

Silver: “Chime” by Dessa

Bronze: “Lightning Round” by Bad Bad Hats


More 2018 Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Winners:

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