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University of Minnesota Extension

Economic contribution of 2019 Grandma’s Marathon weekend

Key findings for communities

  • Direct effect: In 2019, Grandma’s Marathon weekend attendees spent an estimated $10.7 million while in the Duluth area. This spending supported 100 jobs and generated $2.5 million in labor income. Grandma’s Marathon spent $3.1 million to host the event and hired 84 workers.
  • Total effect: In 2019, Grandma’s Marathon weekend generated an estimated $20.6 million of economic activity in St. Louis County. Of this, $5.7 million was labor income. Race events supported employment for 244 workers.
  • Top industries impacted: Grandma’s Marathon generated $20.6 million in economic activity in 2019. Of this, $13.8 million was direct spending by race participants and race organizers, and $6.8 million was at other businesses in St. Louis County. The top industries affected by Grandma’s Marathon weekend included wholesale trade, real estate, and owner-occupied dwellings (housing).
  • Visitor spending: Those specifically traveling to Duluth to participate in the races (visitors) brought “new” money into the economy. Of the total economic contribution, an estimated $17.5 million was money brought into Duluth by visitors. Of this, $4.8 million was labor income. Visitors supported 210 jobs.

About this report

Grandma’s Marathon is a road race held annually in Duluth, Minnesota. First held in 1977, the marathon drew 150 registrants to run from Two Harbors to Duluth. With time, the now world-class event has expanded to include the Garry Bjorklund half-marathon, William A. Irvin 5K, and the Whipper Snapper races for kids. In addition to these races, marathon weekend also features the Essentia Health Fitness Expo, Michelina’s spaghetti dinner, and Rock the Big Top entertainment.

The weekend attracts more than 20,000 people to Duluth each year. In 2019, 19,300 runners from 46 countries and all 50 states participated in the races. The 2019 marathon weekend was June 20-22.

Grandma’s Marathon hired University of Minnesota Extension to conduct an economic contribution analysis of the event.

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Brigid Tuck, senior economic analyst; John Bennett, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2019

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