Henderson embraces flooding, closed roads by throwing 'Flood Fest'

Flooding from the Minnesota River has closed roads around Henderson, Minnesota, for the past few weeks, but residents are not letting it get them down.  

Henderson has been dealing with significant flooding since mid-March. Currently, three of the four roads into the town— eastbound Minnesota Highway 19 and both directions of Minnesota Highway 93—are closed. Temporary floodwalls are holding back several feet of the Minnesota River and a flood warning remains in effect for the area. 

To make the most of their situation, the city is closing down a block of Highway 19 and throwing a party on Friday, dubbed “Flood Fest.” The event promises live music, food and drink, dancing and family friendly activities. There will also be a photo booth with life jackets where people can pose in front of road-closed signs. 

“The roads are closed, the flood gates are up, so let’s get down!” a flyer posted to the city’s website reads. “Come on down to Main Street for some good old fashioned celebrating, Henderson-style.” 

Mary Menne, the wife of Henderson’s mayor and an active community member, said the town has “flooded out” in seven of the last 10 years. In that time, they had been taking advantage of the lack of traffic through the normally busy area and throwing a street party. 

“We just thought, man, wouldn’t this be a great time to carpe diem and do a street party?” Menne said. 

Henderson is known for its celebrations, so celebrating the flood just made sense. The town hosts Sauerkraut Days and classic car roll-ins in the summer and Hummingbird Hurrah in the fall. 

“So many celebrations,” Menne said. “This is what we do best.” 

Menne and other community members managed to put the whole event together in under two weeks. With three of the four roads into town covered by water, residents got permission from the Minnesota Department of Transportation to close a one-block stretch of Highway 19 to host Henderson's first ever Flood Fest.

“People just came forward saying, ‘We want to help, what can we do,’” she said. 

The festival is complete with live music, a photo booth, and a restaurant offering flood-themed items, like the “Sandbag Sandwich.”

Organizers are also using Flood Fest to bring awareness to the need for flood mitigation in the area. They have invited everyone from local representatives to Gov. Tim Walz to come and see what the town looks like when it is flooded out.  

“We are trying to get as many people here as possible to show how awesome our town is and to shine a light on flood mitigation,” Menne said. 

Town officials hope the block party helps a pair of bills in the House and Senate asking for $18 million to raise the north route in and out of town, so it doesn't flood as often.

“It shows the community is not willing to take a back seat to things they can't do anything about,” said Mayor Paul Menne. “It shows we can do something about it and not only that, but we're going to do something positive about it.”

Flood Fest runs from 5-9 p.m., which live music starting at 5:45 p.m. It is free and everyone is invited.