ELY – Concern over the COVID-19 pandemic has forced Ely Chamber of Commerce officials to offer an alternative celebration of the annual Blueberry/Art Festival that typically would draw tens of …
ELY – Concern over the COVID-19 pandemic has forced Ely Chamber of Commerce officials to offer an alternative celebration of the annual Blueberry/Art Festival that typically would draw tens of thousands of visitors to the area this weekend.
“Operation Blueberry” is underway, according to event coordinator Ellen Cashman, as a way to give exposure to local businesses through special sales and promotions in an attempt to attract customers who may visit the Ely area this weekend despite the cancellation of the festival.
“In a summer of unprecedented event cancellations due to the worldwide pandemic,” Cashman said, “Ely area businesses along with the Ely Chamber of Commerce have come together to create some new summer activities for people. It is an answer to the many inquiries we received from those who did not cancel their reservations despite our needed cancellation of this wonderful event.”
This year, with the cancellation of nearly all the usual events that normally take place this month, the Chamber of Commerce devised “Operation Blueberry,” which runs from Friday, July 24 though Friday, July 31, as a way to still offer some of the fun visitors and residents have come to expect during this time of year.
Cashman said the Chamber of Commerce remains hopeful that “perhaps thousands of visitors” will flock to Ely this weekend. She reported that many area resorts are booked through August, with local lodging establishments having only limited availability through the end of the month.
“Many area businesses have signed on to Operation Blueberry to offer opportunities for people to get out and about while still adhering to public health guidelines put in place by the CDC,” she said. While social distancing and the use of protective face masks are encouraged, no state or local mandates, as of presstime, were in place to enforce those common-sense behaviors for the health and well-being of the community and visitors.
“Visitors and residents can stroll the streets looking for surprises around each corner,” Cashman said. “People may find games and puzzles on the sidewalk, a sidewalk sale, or maybe even a business garage sale. How about a blueberry popsicle or blue yarn and a knitting kit?”
She said the list of participating businesses continues to grow, and live music will be heard around town.
“Visitors can stop and take a minute to listen to live music at the Tiki deck or have a cup of Wild Willy’s Blueberry punch at Rockwood’s patio lounge,” Cashman offered.
The Northern Lakes Arts Association will conduct its second “drive-by” art show of the summer.
“Visitors and residents are encouraged to be on the lookout for artists displaying their work on porches, front lawns, clothes lines and gardens all around town,” Cashman said.
A special golf scramble will be held at the Ely Golf Club. For baseball fans, Veterans Memorial Field, just a long home run distance from Whiteside Park, will be the site of a youth baseball Legion Alumni game at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Kids can grab a sheet for a kids’ coloring contest.
“Maybe there is a mini-Monet out there,” Cashman speculated.
Local artists as well as familiar and popular artists from the Blueberry/Art Festival will be showing their works at participating local businesses.
“People don’t have to miss out on purchasing a piece from a favorite artist,” she added.
“At one Ely store, there will be a chance to pick a blueberry discount from a basket and look for the blue tag,” Cashman teased.
Businesses are also encouraged to create and display a banner advertising their special events that is part of a Chamber-sponsored contest where the winner will receive a free membership.
The Chamber of Commerce posted a map and list of participants with business hours on their Facebook page and the “Ely MN Events” Facebook page. Maps are located in the outdoor brochure rack at the Ely Chamber of Commerce, 1600 East Sheridan St. For more information, call Cashman, 218-365-6123.
The chamber’s “virtual festival,” that allows people to purchase items from typical festival vendors online, started June 15 and concludes on Sunday, July 26.
In a “normal” year, Ely would hold small events every week and major events each month. The fate of the chamber’s other major event, the Harvest Moon Festival, usually scheduled for after Labor Day, will be determined by the end of the month, according to officials.
The Ely Marathon, Boundary Waters Blues Festival and Ely Watercross Races have all been shut down this year. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a statewide all-terrain-vehicle association convention, and the Forsman Burnout scholarship event, remain on the Ely events calendar for later this fall.