Harvest Moon still on…for now

by Tom Coombe
Despite a recommendation that it be cancelled, Ely’s Harvest Moon Festival is still on as scheduled in early-September.
The Ely Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the annual event,plans to wait until July 28 before deciding the fate of the popular arts and crafts show held in Whiteside Park.
But the Chamber’s board will weigh a recommendation from the organization’s events and promotions committee, which recommended on May 26 that the Harvest Moon Festival, slated for Sept. 11-13, be cancelled.
Brian Forsberg, chairman of the Chamber’s board of directors, stressed Thursday that no final decision has been made.
“This has not yet been discussed at the board level,” said Forsberg. “At this point, the ‘go or no go’ date is July 28. The board as far as I know would not make any decision until that time.”
In April, the Chamber cancelled this year’s Blueberry/Art Festival and several other summer events because of the coronavirus pandemic.
At the time, Chamber officials said they planned to move forward with the Harvest Moon event, but the events and promotions committee subsequently reversed course.
According to the minutes of that group’s May 26 meeting, a letter from events coordinator Ellen Cashman as well as “recent cancellations of large public gathers including the Minnesota State Fair due to COVID-19,” led to the motion to recommend cancelling Harvest Moon.
Numerous other events across northern Minnesota
have also been cancelled because of the pandemic and restrictions on large gatherings, including Babbitt’s Peter Mitchell Day,s Virginia’s Land of the Loon Festival, the Embarrass Fair and the St. Louis County Fair.
Cancellation of the Blueberry/Art event figures to have significant economic impacts in Ely, given three-day attendance that often reaches 40,000 as the area fills with visitors from around the state and beyond.
The Harvest Moon Festival is a much-smaller version of the Blueberry/Art event, usually attracting about 125 vendors to the city park.
While acknowledging the committee’s recommendation to cancel, Forsberg said he would like to take more time to come up with a decision.
“It just seems like so many events are being cancelled,” he said. “My take is stuff changes so fast I’d like to wait and see what the Department of Health and governor say.”
Blueberry/Art vendors have been given the option to lease space in the park for Harvest Moon weekend and some are taking the Chamber up on that offer, Chamber officials said several weeks ago.
They also indicated at the time that the Harvest Moon could grow in size compared to previous events.
Two other major events in Ely, both set for September, are still on.
Those are a major gathering of ATV riders set for the weekend of Sept. 18-20 and the Sept. 26 Ely Marathon.