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We have enough sports events in the Twin Ports area to satisfy anyone, but anyone who is desperate to be entertained should simply follow Ryan Kern around.
Kern is the guy who started soccer and hockey post-season all-star games, then added virtually every other sport to give area athletes a chance to show their skills against others among the best in the region.
After that, Kern branched off and started conducting air shows, which draw the top attractions in the world with the Blue Angels, the Thunderbirds, and the Canadian Snowbirds highlighting his presentations almost every summer. Two weeks ago, he again conducted his now-annual street drag races on Garfield Avenue, which was a major attraction.
Last weekend, Kern got Duluth Rising...Literally. After numerous attempts to beat the weatherman and lure perfect weather and wind conditions to Bayfront Festival Park for his annual Hot Air Balloon extravaganza, Kern revised his title and has started calling it “Duluth Rising.”
“We’ll keep trying to get the balloons filled and flying, and give people rides,” said Kern, “but it’s such a small window of opportunity we have to have. We need some wind, off the lake, blowing toward the northwest, and we need less than 12 mph winds, and we can only fly them in the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset each day.
“So we decided to have other things along with the balloons, like food vendors, live music, kite flying, face painting, and everything is aimed at the idea of rising - moving upward. So we’ll call it Duluth Rising, and then if the balloons don’t get perfect conditions, we can still all have a good time.”Kern was proudest of the idea of having it be family oriented and free to all customers, similar to the highly successful Harvest Festival the previous week, where admission and parking were free for everybody. The Grinch, however, came early as attendants stopped every car entering and charged a $5 parking fee. Paying $5 to park for a free event that lets you get close up to those giant balloons - that won’t be flying except for brief early and late times with perfect weather - adds the hint of ripoff to the whole preceedings. But we can’t blame Ryan Kern for that.
The other major attraction last weekend was the 23th annual Inline Marathon, the largest roller marathon in the country. The roller bladers follow the same course, almost, as Grandma’s Marathon, and they fly through the course in less than an hour!
Ken Kuwada won the event in 56 minutes, 56.12 minutes to leave the field behind. The women’s race was far more exciting, with Corinne Stoddard, who is only 17, beating Franchesca Pasquarella by 4-hundredths of a second, with a winning time of 1:12:09.22.
Vikings, Packers Leave Their Rivalry To Be Solved Later
The much publicized quarterback showdown between new Viking Kirk Cousins and veteran Packer Aaron Rodgers was, essentially, a standoff. So was the game, a rather incredible 29-29 overtime tie at Lambeau Field Sunday.
Rodgers was his usual self, and Cousins, who had played well most of the day, had an astounding finish, with three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter - two to Stefon Diggs, of 3 and 75 yards, and a spectacular 22-yard missile with 31 seconds left that somehow zipped between two perfectly placed defenders and was snagged by Adam Thielen for a touchdown. Cousins then tossed a lob to Diggs for a 2-point conversion and the 29-all tie.
The Vikings got the tie because veteran Clay Matthews was charging in at Cousins with 1:45 remaining, Cousins got his pass away but it was intercepted b Jaire Alexander. That should have sealed a 29-21 victory for Green Bay. But Matthews kept coming, hammering Cousins to the turf, and then landing on top of him. The ref called roughing the passer - negating the interception and giving Cousins the chance to tie the game.
Having forced overtime, the Vikings held off the Packers and got their chance. Cousins led them down the field, centering the ball for rookie Daniel Carlson to kick a short, 35-yarder for the victory. Carlson had missed earlier on a 48-yarder in the second quarter, and on a 49-yard kick that could have won early in the overtime. But he missed this one - also pushing it to the right - from 35 yards, barely longer than an extra point.
It led to the Vikings firing Carlson, their first-round draft pick, and whose long kicks in exhibition play led to the waiving of veteran Kai Forbath. When the Vikings dismissed Carlson one day later, coach Mike Zimmer was asked if it was tough to cut a top draft pick after such a short time, and he said: “Did you see the game?”
The Vikings weren’t the only team with kicking woes. The Cleveland Browns, playing much better than anyone anticipated, lost 21-18 to New Orleans when Zane Gonzalez missed his second field goal of the game, wide right in the final seconds. Gonzalez also missed two extra points, and all that came one week after he had a winning field goal blocked in what ended up as a tie with Pittsburgh.
The Browns cut Gonzalez the next day.
Other highlights of the NFL weekend: Jacksonville beat the New England Patriots 31-20 as Blake Bortles threw four touchdown passes...Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for two touchdown passes and 402 yards as Tampa Bay (Tampa Bay?) beat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-21...Patrick Mahomes led Kansas City to a 42-37 victory over Pittsburgh, in Pittsburgh, by throwing for six touchdown passes, going 23 of 28 for 326 yards. The 23-year-old Mahomes now has 10 touchdown passes in two games.
Then there’s old Case Keenum. Everybody says he had a shaky day, but he came through with a key 26-yard pass completion at the finish and set up Brandon McManus for a 36-yard field goal with six seconds left as Denver beat Oakland 20-19.