Kickoff event opens Ely Winter Festival

Friday night event set for city park; snow carvers set to arrive in town

by Tom Coombe -

It’s not quite on the level of an Olympic opening ceremony, but Ely just might have the next best thing next Friday night.
The 26th annual Ely Winter Festival will begin with grandeur and fanfare at Whiteside Park with a kickoff event, complete with a festival torch.
The torch marking the start of Ely’s annual winter celebration will be carried into the park for an event that’s set to begin at 6 p.m.
A festival “fire bowl” will be ignited as the celebration begins, and a skating rink to be built in the city park just for the winter festival will be opened to officially start the party.
Representatives of numerous community and youth groups are set to participate in the kickoff, including Ely’s high school band drummers and percussionists, members of the Ely Nordic Wolves ski team, Mites and Mini-Mites youth hockey players, as well as kick-sledders and figure skaters.
Cookies and hot chocolare are also set to be served, at the free event, which is scheduled to last until 7:30 p.m.
The Ely Winter Festival runs from Feb. 7-17 and encompasses a pair of weekends, as the community once again celebrates the season with a slew of events.
Whiteside Park and other locations in town serve as home to an array of snow sculptures, to be carved by 18 teams from Ely, elsewhere in Minnesota and other countries as part of the International Snow Sculpture Symposium.
The symposium headlines the opening weekend and includes Thursday’s Snow Carvers Jam, from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Ely Steakhouse.
The artists will fill the city park the next three days, turning their giant block of snow into creations that will draw thousands of viewers.
The park will be home for most of the sculpting teams during the opening weekend, and a festive atmosphere will include a large warming tent, complete with a stove.
Other opportunities at Whiteside Park during the first weekend include winter camping demonstrations, the annual Kubb tournament, kicksled demonstrations, a fat bike tour of local trails with rental available, a labyrinth, and a chili cook-off contest to benefit the Ely Area Food Shelf at the Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 9, from noon to 3 p.m.
A full calendar of events can be found on the festival’s website at www.elywinterfestival.com.