29th Annual Ely Winter Fest Celebrating History and the Outdoors

ELY, Minn. — For northern Minnesotans there’s no staying under the covers when snow falls, it’s just another way to get outdoors even in the dead of winter and the return of the 29th annual Ely winter fest attracted plenty to do just that, from the area, and beyond.

Big fish, lions and more have appeared in the snow in Ely bringing with them the winter festival and amazed fans.

“It’s so much fun, I always get so excited because I handle the phone calls coming in, and starting on Wednesday my phone has just been ringing off the hook with people from Minneapolis, people from Rochester and Duluth, they’re coming from everywhere to enjoy the sculptures,” Shauna Vega, Festival Coordinator, said.

11 sculptures were created over a course of 3 days leading up to the 10 day fest, with creators coming from as near as Minneapolis, and as far as Germany.

“I definitely think that the ice sculptures and the events that go on around town, that weren’t happening last year, have brought in a lot of people from out of the town, out of state even,” Elli Piragis, General Manager of Piragis Northwoods Company said.

Even locals, who return every year, always find a reason to stop and appreciate the craftsmanship.

“Every year they’re unique and like this here, the snow must have been exceptional because the detail in the carvings is really exquisite,” Lindsey Lang, an Ely Resident, said.

In the early 1990’s, the Millers, a family from Ely, wanted to create a winter festival to promote education and outdoor activities that reflect the history of their town.

Almost 30 years later, the celebration continues on, no matter the temperatures.

“It’s a testament because the day we started the festival, it was 40 below out here, it was pretty cold and we still had a really large number of people come to the park just to check it out and see what’s going on,” Vega said.

The festival has become a staple of the season in the northern Minnesota town, showing there’s plenty to do in the snow.

“I think Ely’s very unique in that we have a lot of really great artists and i think it’s something that we maybe don’t see enough of here,” Piragis said.

Aside from the sculptures in the park, the festival also features an art walk, where local stores hang art in their shop windows to simulate an outdoor art gallery.

“That’s invigorating, it gives you hope and perspective for the future, if we can create these kinds of things, we can create even more,” Bill Tefft, a Resident of Ely said.

The art walk continues through the month of February, and the Winter Fest continues through Sunday the 13th.

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