From the miscellaneous drawer

by Anne Swenson

It seems that winter and snow in Ely lasts forever, but in the past there was a lot of competition, not only for athletes to compete. But also for volunteers to maintain safety.
Ely’s All American Sled Dog Race used to start on Miners Drive where the Veterans Memorial is now. The race crossed Shagawa, Fall and Cedar lakes before heading north.
With all those miles, it required over 100 volunteers. Newspaper cameras would freeze while announcer Duane Krause identified the racers.
Up the trail, Mary Catherine Brown kept her group ready.
The need for volunteers and safety included the annual ski jumping tournament. Bill Mills said about 50 people should help at the Hidden Valley structure.
Growing up on a farm near Starbuck, MN, my dad was in the class of 1915. The family farm was one mile south of the ski hill.
Dad’s first skis were made of a straight board with a barrel stave nailed on the front. Typically children ski jumpers were six to eight years old. Dad attended his first event in 1909. Most of the competitors were of Norwegian descent, as he was.
Although not a star skier, he was chosen to break the trail on the jump after a new snowfall. He did well until he hit a 2x4 that had been laid across the end of the jump by some idiot, he wrote to the class reunion committee in 1982. That time he ended up about 50 feet from the end of the jump and though sore, had no memory from his concussion.
Dad continued to follow that sport for many years. No, he never got to see Ely jumpers Jim Grahek, nor the Williams brothers, Nappas or others.
Ely’s ski jump is now in Illinois and is still being used.
Winter locations in Ely have changed. Long gone is jumping from Ely’s first cemetery hill south of town. But children are still sledding and ice skating so some winter traditions are maintained in addition to high school indoor and outdoor sports. I haven’t heard of any scuba divers braving the icy waters of Burntside and snowmobiling is also still popular.
It’s been a warm and friendly winter. Stay healthy!