photo by lilly ball
Ely Winter Festival 2/1–11
In the 18th century, French businesspeople known as voyageurs trekked into what is now Ely looking for furs to trade, but the eventual discovery of raw minerals there established it as part of the Iron Range. Similarly, Ely changed the name of its 10-day winter fête from the Voyageur Winter Festival to the less fussy Ely Winter Festival 10 years ago—more inclusive of the northeastern town’s mining identity and Native American past. At the Ely Folk School, celebratory crafts range from Russian birch-bark baskets and beaver hats to Nordic wool needling. Anyone can sign up for the non-competitive Snow Sculpting Symposium, where teams transform icy fluff into architectural madness (less perilous than ice sculpting, with meals and housing provided to out-of-town artists). Meanwhile, players of Scandinavian game Kubb toss batons at wooden blocks (“kubbs”), and snowshoers venture into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to view the Hegman Lake pictographs, well-preserved Native American rock art.