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ELY- The Ely Winter Festival is now on its amazing 30th year, but there’s no sign it’s slowing with approaching middle age.The event officially kicked off on Thursday, but signs of the …
ELY- The Ely Winter Festival is now on its amazing 30th year, but there’s no sign it’s slowing with approaching middle age.
The event officially kicked off on Thursday, but signs of the imminent event were breaking out all over town days earlier. Wooden forms for making the snow sculpting blocks were sprouting in the park and other key locations. Local art began appearing in store windows for the Art Walk, which continues through February. All day Monday, the snow sculpting team of Jaymie Stocks, Sarah Moldenhauer, and Mason Wiekert were busy carving the traditional festival pin in the space in front of Piragis Northwoods Company at the corner of Sheridan and Central. That’s across the street from the headquarters of this year’s event at Northern Grounds.
The event began life as an annual cross-country ski race in 1984 from Tower to Ely. The activities at the finish line expanded starting in 1988 until it grew into a three-day weekend full of outdoor winter activities. In 1993, the headline event of the Snow Sculpting Symposium arrived as well as the first festival pin. Along the way, the event became the Voyageur Winter Festival.
The Ely Art Walk arrived in 1998. In 2004, the Art Walk became its own nonprofit entity. In 2007, the event formally adopted the Ely Winter Festival name, which it has kept ever since.
So many events
This year’s 10-day festival is home once again to the yearly favorites of the Snow Sculpting Symposium, the Ely Art Walk, skating and kick sledding in Whiteside Park, candlelight skiing out at Hidden Valley and as many snowshoeing events as there are days in the festival. Spots for hikers for the snowshoe hikes out to Sigurd Olson’s historic Listening Point are limited. Sign-ups are at listeningpointfoundation.org using the link halfway down on the homepage.
One notable special event this year are two shows by singer-songwriter Courtney Yasmineh at Northern Grounds Coffee House this Saturday and Sunday.
Several events that are independent from the festival run concurrently with the official festival activities. The Dorothy Molter Museum annual fundraising dinner and the Ely ArtWalk are two of the better-known ones, run by their own nonprofit organizations. This year, a new independent event has arrived to run alongside winter festival activities: the End of the Road Film Festival, which the Timberjay profiled in depth in the Jan. 27 edition.
The calendar of everything that’s happening is on the festival website at elywinterfestval.com. The 2023 Ely Winter Festival pin is available at Northern Grounds, Zup’s, Grand Ely Lodge, Potluck Kitchenware, Piragis Northwoods Company, and online at the festival website for $6. One dollar of that amount will help fund the school musical production of “Frozen.”
The Ely Winter Festival is a nonprofit organization, supported through grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council.
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