A Thorough Guide to Fencing Summer Nationals and the July Challenge 2022 in Minneapolis

Fencing Summer Nationals and July Challenge 2022 is fast approaching – in fact, it’s almost here! 

Part of the magic of Fencing Summer Nationals is that it happens in a different city every year. Those cities provide opportunities for exploration and learning in new places, but it also means fencers and fencing families have to get their feet under them in a new city with a new venue every year. The learning curve is part of the fun, but preparation can help the whole thing go much smoother. 

Especially those fencers who are going to Fencing Summer Nationals for the first time, understanding what to do to prepare and how to navigate it all can be a little overwhelming. Even fencers who are old and have been going to Fencing Summer Nationals for years can always use some new ideas or some reminders about old ideas for preparing for the competition. 

Below, you’ll find information about Minneapolis and how to better navigate the venue and the competition.

The USA Fencing Experience

One valuable part of any high-level competition in any sport is the way that it can elevate that sport in the eyes of the public. Visibility directly equates to more people coming into fencing. 

New this year to Fencing Summer Nationals is the USA Fencing Experience. This pop-up, interactive experience will give people in Minneapolis who are not part of the fencing community a way to interact with the sport. It’s a wonderful addition to Fencing Summer Nationals and the July Challenge, and we’re excited about the way that it could support the sport. 

The pop-up was created through donor support and corporate sponsorship, which allows it to be free to the public. It’s not located in the venue but is a fifteen minute walk from the tournament in Nicollett, which is a multi-story shopping and dining district in the heart of the city. This location will give visibility to the sport, and it also encourages fencing families to go to out into the city to explore. 

5 things for fencers to prepare for Summer Nationals in Minneapolis

The competition is the reason we’re all here, so getting ready for it has to be of paramount importance. Everyone has individual needs for preparing for travel and competition, but these five things are an excellent reminder or addition to your routine. 

1. Getting to the Minneapolis Convention Center (MCC)

Navigating any big city means learning how to get around. The venue for Fencing Summer Nationals and the July Challenge is a massive convention center, but Minneapolis offers ways to navigate to the venue easily. 

  • There are four parking decks that access the MCC. The Plaza Parking Ramp is the closest, but all are within two blocks. Expect to pay $9.00-$11.00 for the day of parking at the event. 
  • The Minneapolis Skyway System is a series of enclosed bridges that connect buildings throughout downtown, including the MCC. You can plan to walk through these if you’re trying to get to the tournament from downtown hotels and parking, and you can also use them to get out of the venue to explore Minneapolis. Note that these bridges are not always open – they go from 6:30am-10pm Monday-Friday, 9:30am-8pm on Saturday, and noon-6pm on Sunday. 
  • Public buses to the MCC are free from some locations, specifically along Nicolett Mall. Buses that are part of this program are clearly marked “free ride” on the front. All over downtown, it’s only fifty cents per ride. Buses are connected to the METRO lines, so you can get to the venue without having to bring a car from just about anywhere. Be sure to keep your fencing equipment close! There’s a lost and found if you accidentally leave your stuff on a bus, but no one wants to go through that.  

2. When you get to the Minneapolis Convention Center (early)

Hopefully, you’ve been able to arrive a day before the tournament, in which case you should go to the Minneapolis Convention Center and do all of the following a day before you compete. 

You can of course do all of these things on the day of your event as well.  

This is our suggested order, as it gets the most important things done early, but it’s up to you. Here’s a rundown of what you’ll want to take care of at the convention center. 

  1. Equipment check
  2. Weapon fixes
  3. Uniform stenciling with your name if you haven’t already
  4. Find your club base
  5. Find your strip assignment – these are posted the night before the competition
  6. Familiarize yourself with the venue, including where to get water and food if you need it

If you’re able to get there a day early you can do all of these things, including the equipment check. Getting to the venue as early as possible is a way to let your brain settle in and switch gears. There’s a learning curve to each new place that you fence, and you want to put as much of a dent in that learning curve as you can so that your brain is clear to focus on fencing. 

3. Identification & vaccination

USA fencing will need your membership card in order for you to register in person at the MCC. This can be a physical card, or it can be on your phone. It doesn’t matter which. If you prefer a physical card, you’ll go to your USA Fencing Account dashboard and print it out. 

The other necessary piece of information is your vaccination card for everyone age 12 and up. If you are unvaccinated, you’ll need a negative PCR test that was completed within 72 hours of your arrival. You absolutely must have this to get into Fencing Summer Nationals and the July Challenge. Though vaccination and testing are not required by the venue itself, it is required through USA Fencing for athletes, spectators, and officials. This is nothing new, as this has been the USA Fencing policy for some time, but it’s always worth reiterating. Your vaccine card can be printed or it can be a picture on your phone. You’ll get a wristband that shows that you either presented a vaccination card or your proof of a negative test. 

Masks are not required in the Minneapolis Convention Center, but they are required by USA Fencing for the event for everyone over the age of 3. The only exception is when fencers are actively competing on the strip. 

4. Bring snacks/water/gatorade

As with any fencing competition, you’ll want to fuel yourself in the right way during competition. The offerings of healthy food are always lackluster in venues like this, though there are several restaurants in the convention center that offer some lighter food that might be good for athletes.

It’s always a good idea to bring with you whatever kinds of snacks and fueling options work best for you. This might include things like Cliff bars, energy bites, trail mix, or even fresh fruit. Gatorade or a water bottle is a must as well. 

There are options not too far from the venue if you’re out exploring downtown ahead of the venue. There’s a Target grocery store a couple of blocks away in the heart of downtown, and there’s also a Whole Foods and a Fresh Market not far either. Depending on your hotel, you might look at having a delivery service like Instacart bring what you need right to where you’re staying to save time and energy. Of course, if you’re driving, you can always bring your favorites with you.

5. Keep cash on hand

Though cash is usually harder to handle, not to mention being more and more rare these days, having some on hand for Fencing Summer Nationals could make things easier. Keep a dozen or so $1 bills in your wallet or fencing bag so that you’re ready if you need a quick fix for a weapon, to get something out of a vending machine, or to pay a bus fare in Minneapolis.   

More resources, especially for first-time competitors

Don’t just stop at the resources that you find here, take a few minutes before you head to Minneapolis. Especially if this is your first time going to Fencing Summer Nationals, it’s worthwhile to go in-depth in some other resources. 

AFM has written extensively in the past about how to prepare for and get through Fencing Summer Nationals. Here are several resources to help you make sense of all of the moving pieces that you’ll need.

Taking the time to look through resources before you head to Minneapolis will keep you from feeling overwhelmed or out of place, again, especially for first-time competitors. 

What you need to know about Minneapolis

Any city has its own quirks and interesting bits that we want to explore when we visit. It’s such a big part of the fun of being in Fencing Summer Nationals!

This year’s city is Minneapolis, Minnesota, which is one-half of the “Twin Cities”, with the other being St. Pail, Minnesota. Locals often just refer to them as “the cities”. Together, they’re home to about as many people as Washington, DC, though Minneapolis is the larger of the two individually. 

There is a lot to do, and Minneapolis is full of vibrant communities and plenty of Midwestern charm. It’s definitely a city work exploring, but only if you have some time away from the venue. 

Culture to explore

Though they were once home to lots of immigrants from French, Irish, and Germans who came to the area looking for a better life. In more recent years, the area has become home to new immigrant communities of Hmong, Somalis, Liberians, and Cameroonians. There’s also a robust Dakota and Ojibwe Native American population in the area. While the midwest is not known for its diversity, in fact this area is hugely diverse! This is evident in downtown Minneapolis’s cultural districts, the Cedar-Riverside District and Central Avenue, which are great places to go adventuring during your extra time. 

Independence Day

July 4th falls right in the middle of Fencing Summer Nationals, and fencers who go every year find themselves celebrating the holiday with fencing every year.

Minneapolis isn’t holding its usual fireworks celebration this year due to budget cuts and staffing shortages, which is a little sad, but there are other ways to go celebrate. The closest to the venue is a city-sponsored event at Boom Island Park. Starting at 8am on the 4th, this is a patriotic festival that will have classic American games and activities.

Mississippi River

This city is located right on the banks of the Mississippi River, and that waterfront is part of what makes Minneapolis so special. It’s highly recommended that you head down to the river adn take a breather if you need to get out of the venue and relax. 

Mall of America

The biggest tourist attraction in Minneapolis is without a doubt the Mall of America. If there’s one thing that you’re thinking about going to do to get the most out of your tourist experience, this is absolutely the thing to do. Though this attraction is not technically in Minneapolis, it’s only a fifteen-minute drive or bus ride to get there. 

It’s hard to describe the Mall of America accurately. Imagine a mall, full of stores and full of people, but on an exponentially larger scale. Inside this largest mall in the western hemisphere is something akin to an amusement park. Actually, there is an amusement park inside. Nickelodeon Universe is a fully-fledged theme park inside the mall, complete with roller coasters. Trust us, this is unlike just about anything you’ve seen. 

Even though Minneapolis is a large city, it has a slow pace and so is a good place to get out and enjoy some slow down in the midst of the frantic competition of Fencing Summer Nationals. 

Before you go, click over and check out the piece that USA Fencing offered for families traveling to Minneapolis to attend SN. This is a great resources and a definite must read!

However you decide to spend your time, and however you decide to prepare for Fencing Summer Nationals, we hope that you truly enjoy yourself. Whether you’re just in and out going to the venue, or if you are spending a little extra time in Minneapolis, here’s hoping you have a fantastic time and accomplish all the things that you hope to achieve. 

We’ll see you there!