Canoe festival proposed to be Ely’s newest event

by Tom Coombe

In some circles, Ely is known as the “canoe capital” of the United States, if not the world.
So why not host a weekend-long event highlighting canoeing and other paddle-based sports?
That’s the concept behind Ely’s newest event - The Great American Canoe Festival.
The three-day event is set for June 10-12, using Ely’s Whiteside Park and Semer’s Beach for most activities, and even branching off to Birch Lake for a final-day floatilla.
Given Ely’s proximity to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and its niche as an area for outdoors-related tourism, a canoe festival seemed like a natural fit for Ely’s growing lineup of activities, according to local event coordinator Wendy Lindsay,
“I think with Ely being a canoe capital it’s a real fit, and actually we’re surprised there hasn’t been something like this already going on,” said Lindsay.
Hired a year ago to promote and coordinate new events in Ely, Lindsay put together the first Ely Marathon last fall and has added the canoe event to the lineup for 2016.
“There will be two main locations,” she said. “One will be at Whiteside Park and one will be at Semer’s Beach. It will kind of have the same feel as the Blueberry or Harvest Moon festivals but this will be totally focused on padding sports.”
Canoe makers, those who sell kayaks and paddle boards, and other outdoor gear vendors will be invited to set up shop and demonstrate their items.
A used canoe sale, trade show, a running race with dogs, “paddleboard yoga” and even a Sunday afternoon floatilla on Birch Lake - complete with live music - at some stops - are part of the lineup.
While it’s too early to say how many vendors will participate, Lindsay said Thursday that “we’ve got a ton of initial interest.”
Like Ely’s other popular festivals, food booths and entertainment will also be part of the festivities, and plans also call for a nature-based film festival.
As winter turns to spring and summer approaches, more plans for the event will come together and a website promoting the event will go live.