Thanksgiving events dialed back

Parade cancelled, Thursday night shopping promotion is curtailed

by Tom Coombe
The holiday shopping season begins later this week, but it won’t be a typical year in Ely.
While some businesses may be open, the annual Thanksgiving night shopping promotion is not taking place.
Another recent staple of Ely’s Thanksgiving weekend calendar - a Saturday evening parade and tree lighting - will also not occur in 2021.
Nonetheless, the Ely Chamber of Commerce is promoting holiday shopping in Ely and will promote its “Small Town Christmas and Shop Local” weekend.
For three decades, Thanksgiving night in Ely meant the busiest night of the year downtown, with hundreds of people filling the sidewalks and stores and making for a festive atmosphere.
But interest has waned more recently, with fewer businesses opening their doors on Thanksgiving night, and the Covid-19 pandemic created another hurdle in 2020.
This year, the Ely Chamber of Commerce has opted against a Thanksgiving night promotion after hearing from only one local business - Piragis Northwoods Company - that plans to open on Thursday.
“What we heard back from most businesses is people want to spend time with their families,” said Ellen Cashman, event coordinator for the Ely Chamber.
Despite the lack of abundant shopping activity on Thanksgiving night, the Chamber will nonetheless launch its holiday shopping promotion Thanksgiving evening with “Shine Bright Ely.”
Business windows and storefronts up and down Ely’s main street will welcome folks with sparkling lights, animation, and holiday themes, according to a news release issued by the Chamber.
“Get out after that big turkey dinner and stroll or drive the streets and enjoy Ely’s winter wonderland,” said Cashman.
Power shopping is the theme on Friday, which kicks off the shopping season nationwide.
The Chamber is promoting shopping in Ely while highlighting locally made products, “Everything from tasty granola, Dorothy’s root beer, Gene Hicks or Northern Grounds coffee, to outdoor clothing and winter specific gear: knives, bags, packs, toboggans, snow shoes, sleds, dog harnesses and collars. The stores are filled with Northwoods style gifts, art work, artist made cards, home improvement items, and a lot more for everyone on your gift giving list.”
“Shopping local means going home with your purchase, not waiting to see if your online purchases arrive on time,” said Chashman.
The Chamber will produce a map for the whole weekend, showcasing what businesses are offering. It will be on the Chamber website (, posted on its social media and maps will also be available at the Chamber’s headquarters building on the east end of town.
With no parade planned this year, organizers are instead urging residents and visitors to “consider an evening out at one of Ely’s many restaurants.”
Northwoods Partners will kick off its annual Festival of Trees on Thursday, but the usual lighting ceremony at the Grand Ely Lodge will not take place.