Come Hang Out at the DECC

Sometimes a sunrise is more than a sunrise. It can inspire an idea. It started when Dan Hartman, executive director of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC), was walking through the facilities early one morning. It was a quiet moment when the entire 10-venue campus was closed.  

The plush sofa by the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bay was empty. The lounge area, with inviting seating, was deserted. And in the arenas, ballrooms and auditorium, only the purr of the heating system could be heard.  

“It struck me that these spaces were wasted during our downtimes,” said Dan Hartman. “We could invite the public in for no or low-cost events that are logistically easy on our end and give people an opportunity to be here and have some human connection.”

Thus began events for just “hanging out” at the DECC. The first venture was Vinyl Happy Hour every Tuesday evening in November. There people would gather, have an opportunity to purchase a drink while enjoying a live DJ. This event and parking were sponsored by the DECC, meaning no money out of pocket for guests.


“I liked that it was just hanging out in a beautiful place, enjoying music and talking to people. I ended up making some new friends at these events,” said Hartman. Finding connection opportunities can be tricky. Our all-encompassing technology, compounded by the social isolation of the pandemic, has lessened the need and opportunities to leave our homes. Many of us are just out of practice. The evenings attracted a small, but enthusiastic following. 

This moderate success led to Sunrise Coffee in January. Early on Thursday mornings is another no-cost opportunity with complimentary Duluth Coffee Company coffee. Doors open at 7:00 AM for people to enjoy the beautiful morning light cresting over the bridge. Taking place in the lobby lounge area outside of the DECC Symphony Hall, people mingle in comfortable chairs for a hotel lobby vibe. 

“It’s great for photographers of all levels, but mostly I’m seeing people just chatting. It also reminds me how many folks live downtown and just walking over in the Skywalk,” said Hartman. 


February has one for the family. Big Movies at the DECC will be on Thursdays in February. Doors will open at 5:30PM with an opportunity to grab dinner at our concession stand and stake your seats. The movie will start at 6:30PM.  

On our big screen will be Back to the Future on Feb 9; Grease (for Valentine’s Week!) on Feb 16; and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on Feb 24.  

Dan Hartman feels these smaller events are an opportunity. “Selfishly, I’d like people to see these spaces and develop an affinity for the DECC. And it’s hard to like a place you’ve never been to before.” 

Watch the What’s Happening List for more opportunities to hang out at the DECC.

Cover photo by the talented Rick Rice. He’s on social at @duluthrice