Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Canoe festival facing choppy waters

Event coordinator resigns from organizational role in annual event

Keith Vandervort
Posted 11/30/17

ELY –The Great American Canoe Festival in Ely is in peril of sinking and the Ely Events Bureau is looking for ideas to keep it afloat.

Wendy Lindsay submitted her resignation to the Ely Events …

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Canoe festival facing choppy waters

Event coordinator resigns from organizational role in annual event

Posted

ELY –The Great American Canoe Festival in Ely is in peril of sinking and the Ely Events Bureau is looking for ideas to keep it afloat.

Wendy Lindsay submitted her resignation to the Ely Events Bureau on Nov. 1, citing operating losses for the fledgling festival in its first two years. In addition, Lindsay indicated she was resigning as general events coordinator for the bureau. However, Lindsay indicated in a third letter to the bureau that she would like to continue to coordinate the extremely successful Ely Marathon and associated events.

“We are concerned about the Canoe Fest and its losing capacity in its first two years,” Mayor Chuck Novak told city council members last Tuesday. “We don’t have another event to schedule at this point, but we are throwing out ideas to expand the time available for a chamber (of commerce) person, or the possible use of the new director of Incredible Ely to support our efforts. We’re looking for ideas on moving forward.”

In her resignation letter, Lindsay said her organization, Stone Soup, has operated at a loss for the first two years of helping coordinate the Canoe Festival, however, she doesn’t want to see the festival end. “If you are unable to find a replacement, I would rather not see this dissolve and would appreciate being contacted,” she said.

She cited the need for clear goals in an attempt to make the festival a success, including:

‰Redefining success— “The original goal of the event was to promote tourism in Ely. It was planned for at least three years of a negative balance sheet. Measurement of success needs to be increased visibility and tourism in a down calendar time of year. If profit is the main goal, it was set at a poor time of year.”

‰Additional events—”No one will drive up from the Twin Cities to do a four-mile canoe race. A regional draw needs many layers of activities.”

‰Broader marketing—”Marketing for this event needs to be done on a larger scale. The goal is to expand tourism, not make money off of local canoeists and school children.”

‰Different timing—”If the focus of this event is the races, the dates will need to be moved as we are competing with another large canoe race during this weekend.”

‰More collaboration—“I have been working with the Wooden Boat Society, the Canoe Museum group and the Ely Folk School for future collaboration. A “Guinness Book of World Record of folks in a boat” is currently in the works for 2019 and would be a nice addition to this event.”

Lindsay highlighted many items to be addressed in considering her contract renewal for the Ely Marathon. “I understand that the focus now of the board is profit,” she said. “The original focus of the board and my current focus as Event Coordinator is on bringing a quality event to the city of Ely. Clarity of purpose and measurement of success will make the process easier for all involved.”

She asserted that profit should not be a main goal. “If profit were the goal, we would charge local charitable organizations a fee to get the privilege of selling at the event, or do liquor sales on our own. We would also cancel the evening music unless paid for by evening vendors. We would run the race earlier in the year during the heavy travel season. The chamber and city are serving their members if we can document increased sales and revenue for chamber members, charitable groups and the community as a whole,” she said.

Lindsay cited simplification of accounting procedures, a clear understanding of marketing responsibilities, a long-term race improvement plan, and a clear open communication structure when “hiccups” arise as areas of improvement for future Ely Marathon events.

In other business, the council:

•Approved the submission of a CDBG application for 7th Avenue and water tower supply line projects;

•Authorized the application for funds from IRRRB for downtown beautification projects;

•Approved the purchase of a 2009 Freightliner truck with 587 miles from the DNR for $5,000 with conversion in 2020 to firefighting duties;

•Accepted the low bid of $51,300 from Low Impact Excavators Inc. for the demolition of four residential buildings;

•Approved the transfer of the On Sale Liquor License and Sunday Liquor License from Rockwood Bar and Grill of Ely, Inc., to ASIN-MITIG,LCC, pending receiving proper paper work and background checks;

•OK’d the contract with Premier Pyrotechnics for $15,000 for the 2018 Fourth of July fireworks;

•Approved a Sunday On Sale Liquor License for Northern Grounds, pending proper paperwork and fees.

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Snowshoe2

The first year they had it the same time the Gunflint trail had their canoe festival. Also yes many layers of different activity are important and things to do after canoe events are over, Time of Summer is also very big.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017