Snow Ball back for second year

by Tom Coombe

After some questions about where it would take place, plans for the annual winter community dance event are taking place and it will remain at its original site.<BR><BR>Organizers of the Snow Ball - formerly known as the Mukluk Ball - say the dance is now set for Saturday, Feb. 5, from 7 p.m. to midnight, at the Ely Community Center.<BR><BR>Nationally-known blues artist Big Walter Smith and his band - The Groove Merchants - will perform at the fundrasier for the Boundary Waters Blues Festival.<BR><BR>The Snow Ball will be held in conjuction with Ely’s Voyageur Winter Festival.<BR><BR>Earlier in the week it appeared that the event was moving toward a new venue.<BR><BR>City council members took no action on organizers’ request to use the Community Center after city attorney Larry Klun said legal and tax issues could arise if for-profit activities were conducted during the dance.<BR><BR>The Boundary Waters Blues Festival is recognized by state and federal governments as a non-profit organization, but festival organizer Mary Cich apparently had plans to conduct business for her graphics design company during the event.<BR><BR>Cich said Thursday that no for-profit activities would be conducted, which seemingly clears the way for the event to proceed at the Community Center.<BR><BR>The Mukluk Ball had been a staple event of the Voyageur Winter Festival for years, and the Blues Festival took over sponsorship in 2005, bringing acts including Renee Austin and Paul Mayasich to town.<BR><BR>This year, Smith brings his large band to the Community Center stage.<BR><BR>A fixture on the blues scene for 35 years, Smith has been nominated for a Grammy award and has shared the stage with top names including B.B. King.<BR><BR>Smith performed in Ely previously during the BWBF and has been an annual performer at Duluth’s Bayfront Blues Festival.<BR><BR>“Everybody has played with Big Walter,” said Blues Festival and Snow Ball organizer Mike Jankovec. “He was at our second or third blues festival. Everybody who has played wants to have Big Walter with them on stage.”<BR><BR>In existence since 2001, the BWBF has evolved from a one-night event at Whiteside Park to a two-day extravaganza at Winton’s Longbranch, bringing in blues acts which attract fans from Ely, the region, and outs state.<BR><BR>Tickets are $15 and will be available at the door or in advance at Range Lock and Alarm, or by calling (218) 349-5520. Tickets are expected to be available early next week.<BR><BR>