Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Lighting the way

Volunteers behind Ely’s Winter Festival success

Scarlet Stone
Posted 2/13/19

ELY - Northern Minnesota winters can get to feeling long when the sub-zero temps have kept folks inside, but there’s nothing like a festival to lift the spirits and bring people out.

That’s …

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Lighting the way

Volunteers behind Ely’s Winter Festival success

Posted

ELY - Northern Minnesota winters can get to feeling long when the sub-zero temps have kept folks inside, but there’s nothing like a festival to lift the spirits and bring people out.

That’s what Ely resident and Winter Festival volunteer David Stone gets excited about this time of year. He is the festival’s Honorary Ice Candle Illuminator and one of between 35 to 45 volunteers who have helped with various other tasks this year.

Dave moved from Havana, Ill., to Ely in 2015 with his significant other, Barb Jacobson, who is originally from Ely. He always wanted to live in the North Country and for years would watch the Winter Festival on the web cam that is located at Whiteside Park.

This is his second year lighting the ice candles and he plans on doing the job until he is an “old timer,” he says.

Shauna Vega, director of the Ely Winter Festival, is sure happy to have Dave’s assistance. “He’s so enthusiastic and ready to help wherever we need him,” she said. 

This is the 17th Annual Winter Festival and Snow Carver’s Symposium and the event is still going strong.

Every year snow carvers gather in Ely’s Whiteside Park to demonstrate their skills, have big fun and trade knowledge with other snow carvers. This year there are 17 carver groups traveling from as far as Argentina and Thunder Bay as well as many local participants, and unlike past winters, this year the weather conditions were excellent for their craft.

The carving started on Feb. 7 and ended on Feb. 10 with the Carver’s Brunch held at Grand Ely Lodge.

“No monetary awards are given,” said Vega. Instead a People’s Choice Award certificate is given, which follows symposium rules This year the awards went to the two-team collaboration of Blue Sky Designs from Duluth and team Von Scotty of the Twin Cities for their carving titled “Pooling Our Resources.”

They were each awarded certificates and custom-designed mugs from local potter Wade Pharr. 

If you’re in Whiteside Park this weekend at around 5 p.m., look for Dave Stone in his parka with his propane torch in-hand making the rounds to light the over one hundred ice candles. “It takes me about one and one-half hours to light them all,” Dave says, adding,“but that depends on how many people I stop to visit with.”

The ice candles were made this year by the volunteer efforts of the Ely Law Enforcement Club and Julie Nester and her helpers. They were created by filling balloons with water, then setting them into the snow to keep the round shape. Before they are completely frozen the balloon is popped, remaining water is drained and some carving is done to the tops to widen them.

Then Dave takes over. With a set of barbecue tongs in hand, Dave lights a two-inch wax pillar candle and places it inside each ice luminaria. “That was Barb’s idea to use the tongs,” Dave admits.

Over the course of the festival, 600 to 800 pillar candles are needed. Once lit, they burn for six to seven hours and are replaced the next evening.

Dave’s efforts in the park certainly do not go unnoticed. “It’s great listening to the kids ooh and ahh when they see me light the candles.” He leaves a trail of magical brilliance behind him as he works his way through the park. “It’s me giving them a Disneyworld or fairyland and it’s great to see the kids just mesmerized,” Dave said. 

This year he hasn’t been spending quite as much time in the park because he also works full time at Piragis Northwoods Company as the Gear Room Manager, another job he is thrilled to have.

For Dave, living, working and being a part of Ely is a dream come true.

The snow sculptures will remain on display in Whiteside Park until they melt or in the unfortunate case of pranksters “monkey-diddling” with them.

Dave Stone is the brother-in-law of Timberjay staffer, Scarlet Stone. 

  

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