Bang-up biz for blueberry

by Tom Coombe
How do you top a Blueberry/Art Festival that may have been one of the busiest ever?
Put even more people in town.
That was the report from officials at the Ely Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors Ely’s signature event of the summer.
Thousands of people, just how many nobody really knows, crammed into Whiteside Park last weekend for the three-day arts and crafts spectacular, now in its 39th year.
Anecdotal reports and those from festival vendors suggest that business was at an all-time high.
“The Blueberry Festival just seems to keep growing,” said Ellen Cashman, who organizes the event for the Chamber.
Festival hours were adjusted and the park opened at 10 a.m. rather than noon on July 26, the opening day, triggering a swarm of people that never seemed to subside.


Ely council talks trash

by Tom Coombe
Ely council members are pondering changes to the city’s sanitation contract, including a competitive bid process for residential service and allowing commercial property owners the opportunity to contract with whom they choose.
But those ideas generated pushback Tuesday night, both from the incumbent provider and some business owners who spoke at the monthly study session.
Council members took no action Tuesday, but some went on record in support of changes that would strip exclusivity from the current contractor - G Men Environmental Services - and perhaps create separate contracts for residential and business service.
“I think competition has a time and place, and this is the time,” said council member Paul Kess. “Having an exclusive contract now for 10 years, I think we’ve gotten away from any sense of responsibility to the taxpayer. It’s time to rebid that to see if there are any other haulers who can complete.”


Girl bitten by bear near Ely

Echo file photo

The Minnesota DNR is reporting a 16 year-old girl was bitten by a black bear near White Iron Lake on June 22. The bear was later shot and killed by a DNR law enforcement officer.
The incident occurred around 4:30 p.m. on Monday, July 22 when the girl was jogging on a path near White Iron Lake. The victim was taken to Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital for minor injuries where she was treated and later released.
The bear was shot at a garbage bin located near to where the girl was bitten. The bear's DNR is being tested to see if it was the same bear that attacked the girl.
DNR officials have published a notice to those living in the area:
· It is possible that the bear who bit the jogger may still be in the vicinity. Be
vigilant, especially when alone, and be wary of bears that seem unafraid of you.
· The fact that the bear charged the jogger from behind indicates its habituation to
humans. This is not normal behavior for a bear.


Girl Scout group rescued from BWCA

A group of Girl Scouts were rescued from Knife Lake in the BWCA after feeling the effects of a lightning strike.
The St. Louis County Rescue Squad was dispatched after reports of a group of six girls age 15-18 and their leaders from Chicago, IL reported “they might have experienced ground current” after a nearby lightning strike.
The event occurred Friday night after a strong storm passed through the Ely area and even attracted the attention of Gov. Tim Walz who tweeted, “A group of very brave Girl Scouts need your prayers tonight. They’re waiting out dangerous conditions and potential injuries in BWCA, while search & rescue teams try to locate them. Our first responders train for this. We're going to do everything we can to bring them home safe.”


Festival weekend arrives

by Tom Coombe
Wind chimes made their own music and interrupted the silence Thursday at Ely’s Whiteside Park.
As many of the roughly 280 vendors in town for the Blueberry/Art Festival set up shop, the artistry of Bob Hendricks provided more than background noise.
The Forest Lake vendor, who with his wife Lana operates Silverfish ‘N’ Things, has been coming to Ely and the community’s signature event of the summer for about a decade.
Many things keep him coming back.
“We have a lot of return vendors we’ve made friends with,” Hendricks said Thursday, as the park slowly transformed into a tent city for the weekend festival. “It’s kind of fun to all get together. We all do shows but we don’t all do the same shows. It’s fun to run into people you haven’t seen for a year.”


Taste of Slovenia Aug. 3

The Ely chapter Slovenian Union of America “Taste of Slovenia” will be held Saturday, Aug. 3 at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
A $10 admission will cover 12 tastings. Slovenian food, music and selected items will be on display.
A free Taste of Slovenia Polka Party will follow at Amici’s Event Center that evening from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The party is free and open to all, food included.
The cultural event is sponsored by Ely Community Resource and the Northland Foundation.


History Nights to focus on Co-op Point

Co-op Point on Eagles Nest Lake #1 will be the focus of the Ely-Winton Historical Society’s History Nights on Wednesday, July 31.
This enclave of summer homes was predominately Finnish and between them Val Mynti and Sally Koski will bring the history of the Point to life and teach the audience more about the people who immigrated to Minnesota, summered on the Point, and their strong Finnish cooperative connections.
Born and raised in Ely, Sally Koski is a third generation cabin owner on Co-Op Point, Eagles Nest Lake #1. She is a retired nursing professor who enjoys historical research, travel, and art. She has been researching the history of Co-Op Point for the last 4 years.


Gardner Trust community survey results are in, 30-year celebration to be held Aug. 3

In May of this year, the Donald G. Gardner Humanities Trust conducted a community survey.
“As the Trust celebrates 30 years of arts funding in our community this year, it’s a good time to reflect on how we are doing and what to look forward to in the next 3-6 years,” said Keiko Williams, executive director.
“One of the questions people could respond to was to rate what grant programs are most important in the community. The Trust wants to be responsive to what the community feels is most important.”
Individual artist grants again came up as the most important grant program with nearly 37% of the votes (the last community survey was completed in 2012). Individual artist grants are awarded for unique, short-term opportunities that will impact an artist’s career and can be awarded for up to $1,000.
The community survey had two grant programs tied for second; organization project grants and youth grants.


Twin Metals to use dry stack tailings

Twin Metals Minnesota announced Thursday plans to use the environmentally friendly dry stack method to store the leftover rock from its proposed underground copper-nickel mine to be located nine miles southeast of Ely.
The dry stack method eliminates the storage pond and dam associated with conventional tailings facilities.
The dry stack area will be built close to the mine site so it will be located within the Rainy watershed. Previously the company had looked to pump tailings to an area in Embarrass within the St. Louis watershed.
The company will need to acquire land in order to have space for the dry stack area. However, dry stacking requires a smaller footprint than conventional wet tailings storage.
Twin Metals has said up to 50% of tailings will have cement added and be permanently placed back underground.


Ely Winter Festival unveils pin for 2020

In the middle of summer, The Ely Winter Festival board is looking toward winter and planning to create another fabulous festival Feb. 7-18, 2020.
The board announced that Nancy Scheibe, a veteran snow sculptor, has designed the new pin picturing some of the North’s favorite forest animals.
This will be the third festival where the festival will donate $1 of the $6 price of the pin to an Ely public schools arts program.
Previously the festival supported the art department and the instrumental music program.
Proceeds from the 2020 festival will go to the choral music program. The other $5 is used to fund the festival.
The Ely Winter Festival will have a booth at the Blueberry/Art Festival July 26-28.
The festival is looking for people to volunteer at the booth, if interested, email


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