The cornerstone of the Festival is the International Snow Sculpting Symposium in the town’s Whiteside Park with 20 smaller “amateur” blocks and 20 large “expert” blocks, each carved by a three-person team. “We were a little worried about having enough snow,” said Chris Ellerbroek, co-director of the Symposium. "But due to the local residents, businesses and city employees bringing snow to the park, plus some help from Mother Nature, we have all the blocks filled with snow and ready to be carved."
Alongside the carvers in the park is an authentic Voyageur Encampment, with the participants in historic garb camping outside over the three-day weekend.
The downtown area of the town becomes a veritable art gallery, as merchants clear their windows to display local artists’ works in the Ely ArtWalk, which also runs over the 10 days of the Festival. Over 450 pieces of art by 120 artists were displayed in 2011 and.
The Festival kicks off with the "Snow Carvers Jam" on Thursday night, February 2, at the Ely Steak House. Local musicians get together for a night of shared musical fun. Sometimes, the visiting snow carvers join in.
The Ely Community Foundation hosts a Spaghetti Feed on Friday evening, February 3, benefitting local area residents in need.
During the day on Saturday, February 5, is the NLAA crafts fair, a fish fry at Veterans-on-
Also on Saturday, Vermilion Community College holds an open house, the Dorothy Molter Museum is open for visits and the Ely ArtWalk holds its Artists' Meet and Greet at the Chocolate Moose.
Saturday night is the debut of both a new dance and a new venue. Ely Rotary presents the first annual Polar Bear Dance from 8:00 PM to 12:00 AM at the brand new Amici's Event Center Raffle items will be available, including a wall of wine and a pyramid of beer, and proceeds benefit community projects, including the Winter Festival. The dance is an adults-only event.
Both Sundays of the Festival, Northern Lights Lodge hosts dog sled rides for the whole family. The Amateur Snow Carving Contest is judged on Sunday morning, February 6.
The second weekend of the Festival is packed with events as well. For outdoor and history enthusiasts, on Friday morning, February 10, Outward Bound guides a group to the Hegman Lake Native American Pictographs by snowshoe. This is especially meaningful this year as the pin design is based on the pictographs themselves.
Also on Saturday, an ice-fishing contest and "radar run" snowmobile event. Twin Metals Minnesota is also holding an open house at their new facilities.
Saturday night, February 11, the Dorothy Molter Museum will be holding a fundraising dinner at Grand Ely Lodge. Silent auction and raffles are offered with proceeds benefitting the Museum Foundation.
On Sunday, February 12 at 2:30 pm in the Washington Auditorium, the Mesabi Community Orchestra presents a romantic-themed concert with guest solo pianist Alexander Sandor featuring Sibelius’ Finlandia, Tchiakovsky’
Festival pins, T-shirts, beanies, brochures and information will be available during the Festival at their Headquarters, the Front Porch Coffee and Tea Co., which has free wi-fi for customers’ laptops and computer rental time available, as well as organic hot beverages and light, healthy food.
Up-to-the-minute details on events and Festival news can be found on the Festival’s website ElyWinterFestival.com. Of special interest is the gallery, containing video and still shots of past years’ snow sculptures. A web cam of the park and the snow sculptures is also available on the site during the Festival.
Ely Winter Festival: http://www.elywinterfestival.com (media page: elywinterfestival.com/
Ely ArtWalk: http://www.elyartwalk.org
Ely Chamber of Commerce: http:/www.ely.org
The Ely Winter Festival is a non-profit organization whose activities are made possible in part by grants from the Ely Chamber of Commerce and Arrowhead Regional Arts Council through an appropriation from the Minnesota State Legislature with support from local businesses and organizations.