Harvest Moon cancelled

by Tom Coombe
After holding out in hopes for a change in circumstances, the Ely Chamber of Commerce decided Monday to cancel its second major festival of 2020.
The Harvest Moon Festival, which had been set for Sept. 10-12, was scrapped because of the coronavirus-pandemic and associated state regulations.
“Based on current restrictions in place for event gatherings, the event cannot be held,” Chamber director Eva Sebesta said.
The Chamber had earlier cancelled its signature summer event - the late-July Blueberry/Art Festival - but officials said then they were hopeful the smaller Harvest Moon event would go on as scheduled.
Yet a series of executive orders by Gov. Tim Walz, including one that limits outdoor gatherings to 250 people or less, made it all but impossible to hold the Harvest Moon event.
As many as 5,000 people per day pass through Whiteside Park during the Harvest Moon, and Chamber officials said “there is no feasible way to restrict attendee numbers in Whiteside Park.”
The Harvest Moon Festival is a much-smaller version of the Blueberry/Art event, usually attracting about 125 vendors to the city park, with arts and craft booths augmented by attractions that have included music and, in some years, dog jumping shows.
The Chamber’s events committee recommended cancellation on May 26, but the group’s board of directors opted to put any decision on hold until the end of July to determine if there could be a path forward.
Numerous other events across northern Minnesota have also been cancelled because of the pandemic and restrictions on large gatherings, including Babbitt’s Peter Mitchell Days Virginia’s Land of the Loon Festival, the Embarrass Fair and the St. Louis County Fair.
The impact the cancellation will have on the local economy remains to be seen.
Despite the cancellation of the Blueberry/Art Festival and other events, visitor traffic to the region has remained brisk since late-May.
The Chamber reported earlier in the month that many area resorts are booked through September, and anecdotally, it appears that traffic and business in town has been strong as well.
In place of the Harvest Moon, the Ely Chamber plans to proceed with a virtual Harvest Moon Festival for all artists, crafters, and makers currently signed up for the festival. The virtual festival will run from September 10-30, and is similar to a virtual event held for Blueberry/Art vendors.
The Chamber is also organizing Business Harvest Days from Sept. 10-14. The organization will create a map and list of participating businesses and promote the event on social media.
“We invite all businesses to participate in the event. Businesses creating a Harvest-themed window banner will be entered into a contest for best banner,” said Sebesta.
Prizes include: first prize-a free Chamber membership for 2021-2022, second prize- $150 off a membership for 2021-2022, and third prize- $100 off a membership for 2021-2022. All prizes are non-transferable.
An Aug. 21 deadline is in place for business participation.