Organizers Cancel International Eelpout Festival in Walker

Past Festivals Have Brought More Than 12,000 People to the Minnesota Town

WALKER, Minn. (AP) – Organizers have canceled the International Eelpout Festival on Leech Lake in Walker.

They say the economics and other restrictions on the celebration of Minnesota’s ugliest fish no longer work.

So they canceled what would have been the 41st annual event, which had been planned for Feb. 20-23.

A statement posted on the festival’s website reads:

Greetings from Festival Headquarters

It’s with a heavy heart we announce the cancelation of the International Eelpout Festival for this season. Over the years, attendance has multiplied substantially. Each year with more attendees, equals – more traffic, more trash and more safety concerns. After trying to work with the county for the past 5 months to develop a solution for this year’s event, we have come to an impasse on lake enforcement. Because we are the only permit holder required to supply services and clean up, and are not allowed to control the lake, the economics no longer work. We provided a concept/proposal to move all commercial activity off the ice and into Downtown Walker, and this too was not going to allow for acceptable permit process for both parties. In the past years we committed tens of thousands of dollars on lake clean up annually plus supplied services such as porta-potties, ice road maintenance and trash pick-up. Unfortunately, the costs of all these items are rising and the inability to enforce clean up and participation for all festival goers, attendees and vendors it is no longer feasible to operate the festival under the County requirements that change and increase every year. This year there will be no fishing contest or on ice commercial activity from the festival. We will NOT supply ice roads, porta potties or trash removal during what would historically be the Festival weekend. We have had a great ride and appreciate all of you loyal “POUTERS” over the years and thank you for your support.

Past festivals have brought more than 12,000 people to the northern Minnesota town for four days of outdoor activities.

Cass County Administrator Josh Stevenson says he wasn’t aware of the “impasse” cited by organizers.

He wonders whether they might have been glossing over other issues such as the unpredictability of the weather.

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