Storm wipes out Blueberry/Art Festival; Vendors relocate around town

Event cancelled after winds destroy booths

Ellen Cashman stood in the middle of Whiteside Park Friday night after a storm ripped through with winds up to 70 miles per hour. Surrounded by carnage, Cashman delivered the news that the event would not go on.
The storm hit Ely shortly after the festival ended for the day at 6 p.m. Miraculously no injuries were reported.
Saturday morning a number of vendors relocated to other areas around town. According to Mayor Chuck Novak, "Permit fees for Blueberry Arts vendors relocating within Ely are waived."
In addition to the park, there were trees across roads, laying on top of houses and taking our power lines across the Ely area. Minnesota Power reported over 300 people without electricity while Lake Country Power had over 3,000.
Both the Ely and Morse/Fall Lake fire departments were flooded with calls of trees on houses and power lines, going from call to call. Live wires caused some small fires and Highway 88 was closed for a time due to a power line on the road.
Near the Chamber building on Sheridan Street there was a portable garage laying in the middle of the entrance. Anna Hallman had walked across Sheridan to take a look.
“This is mine, it was in the back of my house. I watched it blow over the house and land over here,” said Hallman.
The devastation in Whiteside Park to the vendors’ booths was enough for the Ely Chamber of Commerce, the event that wasn’t held last year due to Covid was cancelled for Saturday and Sunday.
At 8:15 p.m. Cashman made it official.
“We’re not going on tomorrow,” said Cashman. “Due to the terrible storm and the destruction here in the park for the good of the vendors and the community I think we can’t go forward with the show for the rest of the weekend.”
Cashman said there were some vendors who offered to open on Saturday. The winds wiped out some vendor tents, scattering products, while other tents were left untouched.
Volunteers in the community came to help, from cutting a tree that fell on top of two tents to picking hand made jewelry out of the ground.
“It was a hard decision not to go on but we’re lucky in the 40 years we’ve been doing this that something like this hasn’t happened before,” said Cashman. “Thank goodness all of the vendors were pretty much gone. There were a few in the food court yet but pretty much everyone else was gone.
“We did say it was going to be stormy and to button down pretty good. But you can’t button down good enough for something like this. There’s not much we can do but help people clean up, that’s all we can do. It’s really unfortunate.”
The sound of chainsaws cutting trees and branches could be heard for hours after the storm hit. As darkness rolled in, there was sure to be more clean up work to be done in the morning, both at Whiteside Park and around the area.