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Big crowd greets Minneapolis Aquatennial's Torchlight 5K and parade

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The Minneapolis Aquatennial got underway Wednesday evening with a couple of big events that attracted thousands of people to downtown Minneapolis.

The Aquatennial's Torchlight 5K and Torchlight Parade both took place through downtown; primarily along Hennepin Avenue.

A new-look Aquatennial

This year's Aquatennial has been significantly revamped from previous years. It now only lasts four days instead of 10.

Organizers announced the change in May, saying at the time “it will allow us to refresh the Aquatennial experience and open the door for new and exciting opportunities.”

The full list of events published on the Aquatennial website signals a shift away from lake-based events to focus more on activities in downtown Minneapolis and along the Mississippi River.

The refreshed look is part of a concerted effort by the Minneapolis Downtown Council, which organizes the Aquatennial, to “activate and re-energize the downtown area."

Gone are the milk carton boat race and the sand castle competition – which formed part of the popular Aquatennial Beach Bash on Lake Calhoun.

In its place is the Twin Cities Carifest – a Caribbean festival on the West River Parkway – an aquatic dance party at the Minneapolis Renaissance Hotel, and Wilderness Inquiry Voyageur canoe rides at Loring Park.

Besides the 5K and the parade, some other favorite activities have been retained, including performances by the Twin Cities River Rats on the Mississippi on July 23, before the festival concludes with the Target Fireworks on July 25.

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