ELY – The first weekend of the 25th annual Ely Winter Festival offered a mixed bag of weather and a variety of activities for residents and visitors.
Last Thursday dawned with temperatures well below zero, but many hearty snow sculpture symposium attendees were hard at work at first light scraping and digging at the blocks of snow standing majestically in Whiteside Park.
During the Friday school day, a sixth-grade science class from Ely Memorial Middle School trekked over to the park for a field trip. Their assignment involved measuring and calculating the volume of the cold cubes. Class members were never far from the warmth of the bonfire as they enjoyed the field trip.
The Twins of Franklin played at the Ely Folk School. A spaghetti feed was held at St. Anthony’s Church to support Ely Community Resource. Down at the Boathouse Brew Pub, the winner-take-all Friday Throwdown championship belt was awarded to Aaron Magnuson on the first night of the Great Nordic Beardfest.
As the sun set on Friday, with temperatures still maintaining a tight hold on sub-zero, young winter athletes gathered for a torch-bearing opening ceremony and parade through the park. Youth hockey players hit the outdoor ice rink, most oblivious to the cold. One hockey mom was heard to say, “ I’ll be in the car where it’s warm.”
Saturday morning dawned bitterly cold once again. A light, steady snowfall throughout the morning greeted Winter Festival goers with a quiet, soft atmosphere. Snow sculpture artists crawled over and through their creations like so many ants on a hill.
Ice fishing enthusiasts tried their luck on Shagawa Lake for the Vermilion Community College Law Enforcement Club’s annual competition.
With the light snowfall transforming the downtown area into a winter wonderland, art enthusiasts bundled up and toured the Ely Art Walk displays in business windows.
The fresh-baked aroma of a Sour Cream Strudel enticed visitors to the Ely Folk School where Mary Louise Icenhour was conducting one of her popular baking classes. Other classes, such as Beginning Rug Hooking, Sewing Beaver Hides, Wool Needle Felting, and Potica baking were held all weekend at the EFS.
Meanwhile, back at Whiteside Park, a winter camping display was enjoyed by many looking for a warm-up inside the tent. Fat Tire bike demonstrations and riding opportunities were available.
Candlelight skiing at Hidden Valley, a snowshoe hike to Sig Olson’s Listening Point on Burntside Lake. Family-friendly wilderness activities were sponsored by the Dorothy Molter Museum. Even an all-you can-eat fish fry was held at Veterans On the Lake Resort.
Once the sun set, a star-watching presentation and viewing opportunity was held at the North American Bear Center. The Great Nordic Beardfest kicked into high gear over at the Boathouse.
Sunday morning was greeted with crystal blue skies, and of course, frigid temperatures. Dozens of art viewers shrugged off the wind chill to get a different perspective on the light and shadow of snow sculptures in the park. Classes continued at the Folk School.
Joey Kenig and Timothy Stouffer presented “The Sebastian Project: Poetry, Art and Music Collage,” at the VCC Theater. The project is named after Tim’s dog. “Listen to your ravens,” Stouffer said. “Don’t be afraid of the blank page, give your voice the gift of a friend; working together uncovers voices you didn’t know were hidden.”
If that wasn’t enough, the Ely Winter Festival continues this weekend with still more activities for the whole family. The Dorothy Molter Fundraising Dinner starts at 5 p.m. on Friday at the Grand Ely Lodge. Check out the Jaycees Broomball Tournament, beginning at 9 a.m. at the Ely Rec Center. The Kubb Tournament begins at 10 a.m. in Whiteside Park. The Hidden Valley Skinny/Fat Relay also starts at 10 a.m.
Other activities include: Northern Lights and Star Trail photography lessons are hosted at the Grand Ely Lodge; NLAA Downtown Arts Market opens at 10 a.m.; Snowshoe to Hegman Lake Pictographs at 1 p.m.; and the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra Concert starts at 2:30 p.m. at Washington Auditorium.
For a complete listing of events and activities, visit www.elywinterfestival.com.