Tara Aiken first started to get to know Downtown Park when she was a raspberry princess from 2003 to 2004. One of her first memories there is watching the Music in the Park concerts.
She’s gotten to know it quite a bit better since then. She continued volunteering with the Raspberry Festival after her time as Raspberry Royalty and even served on the board. She got her fiancé, Brett Hemmelgarn, involved in the Raspberry Festival, and he, too, got to know the park. Over the years, Aiken came to consider it Hopkins’ best-kept secret.
“I kind of feel like no one outside of Hopkins knows about it. It’s so tucked away, but it’s right in the middle of Mainstreet,” she said Monday. “I have a lot of special memories there.”
So Aiken knew exactly what to do when plans fell through to have her wedding at Hemmelgarn‘s family farm in Clear Lake: Aiken reserved Downtown Park for their wedding Sept. 29.
The idea may have been obvious to her, but those she told about the plan weren’t quite so sure. Showing them the park in the middle of winter didn’t make it any easier conjure up the same potential she saw.
The park didn’t need much work to turn it into dream location, though. Aiken and Hemmelgarn painted wine bottles. They put up hand-written signs directing people where to go. She used the arbor that Raspberry Royalty walk through.
The Raspberry Festival volunteers she works with were among those pitching in. One of the board members worked the sound and electronics. Others helped with the video, decorations and directing people where to go.
In the end, a perfect day dawned. It was 80 degrees with almost no humidity. Loved ones later told her the leaves were gently falling while the ceremony was taking place under the bandshell. Weeks after the event, they were still telling her how much they enjoyed it.
Aiken’s wedding won’t be the last time she enjoys the park. She lives in Minnetonka, a couple blocks from where she grew up, and can easily visit. Plus, she’s still volunteering with the Raspberry Festival.
“It’s going to have a bit of an extra meaning,” she said. “I love that park. What can I say?”