Duluth’s hills provide a multitude of recreational opportunities, but on Saturday, a new use for the incline arrived in the city: a nearly 1,000-foot-long waterslide.
Standing at the top of the waterslide on Second Street, people got a running start before flopping onto inner tubes to ride down 12th Avenue East, ending in a pool of water on Superior Street. Friends raced each other down, parents pushed their children’s inner tubes to keep them going and family members stood on the side with cameras.
As Saturday morning wore on, more and more people who purchased tickets joined the queue with brightly colored inner tubes and inflatable alligators and turtles in hand to experience Slide the City, an event hosted by a Utah-based company that sets up massive waterslides in more than 100 U.S. cities each year.
Friends Mikelle Dougherty and Macy Curnow took advantage of the sunny day to lay in their swimsuits on the pavement of the empty St. Luke’s hospital parking lot off 12th Avenue East, using the curb as a headrest. Taking a break from using the waterslide, they threw their pink and yellow inner tubes over an intercom in the parking lot to keep the lightweight inflatables from blowing away in the cool breeze.
It was a perfect day for the waterslide, Dougherty said, and they hope it returns to Duluth next year because it’s a good idea.
Dougherty, a University of Minnesota Duluth student from Hibbing, said she didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. Curnow, a University of Wisconsin-Superior student from Hibbing, said that knowing Duluth’s hills, she had preconceived notions about the waterslide.
“It wasn’t really what we expected, but it was still really fun,” she said.
Dougherty added, “Since Duluth is so hilly, I thought it would be super-long down a steeper hill. But I can totally see why they didn’t do that — that could be kinda dangerous.”
Slide the City organizer Chris Conran said they ask on Facebook for location suggestions and also consult topographical maps of the city when deciding where to set up. He said he likes a street to have a minimum of a 3 percent slope, and the waterslide on 12th Avenue East had a 4 percent slope on Saturday. Conran said he would have liked the waterslide to be longer, but it was shortened to keep an alleyway unblocked north of Second Street.
The waterslide took about four hours to set up with a crew of 12 people, spending the first hour of their set-up time in the rain on Saturday morning. The slide uses 70,000 gallons of water, pumped from a nearby hydrant; it drains into the sewer system.
This year was the first successful attempt at bringing Slide the City to Duluth after it was canceled last year. Expecting about 1,000 people to use the waterslide on Saturday, Conran said he would like Slide the City to return to Duluth annually. Organizers decided to hold the waterslide event in Duluth in September because it gave a chance for area college students to participate.
“Seeing the smiles on people’s faces, that’s my favorite part. I love to see the kids smile,” he said.
Slide the City partnered with Duluth Firefighters Local 101 to raise money for its Operation Warm campaign that provides new winter jackets to Duluth children in need.
Minneapolis resident Markeyla Chatman saw a video online of Slide the City a couple years ago and has been waiting for it arrive in Minnesota. She and her friends Kendra Ware, Sydni King and Deona Williams left Minneapolis at 6:30 a.m. Saturday to be at the waterslide when it opened at 9 a.m.
They thought it would be longer and steeper, but it still was fun, they said. There was a part in the middle where they kept slowing down and they tried to getting a running start to have enough speed to go the entire way, but they kept getting stuck, they said.
“But other than that, it’s really fun, especially when people push you and you run into each other,” Williams said. King added, “Like when you have a whole little train of people, it’s pretty fun.”
Hayward residents Ashley Martinson and Samantha Watts started taking trips down the slide when it opened Saturday morning. It took a few tries to get the hang of it and not get stuck, Martinson said. The key to keeping up momentum was to spin on your inner tube as you slid down, she explained.
She said she wished it would rain to add to the watery event.
“The breeze can be a little chilly. But this is an active thing because you’re walking (up the hill) and even when you’re sliding, you’re pulling and using your arms. I’m glad it’s a little colder,” she said.