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Canoes celebrated in ‘Canoe Capital of the World’

Keith Vandervort
Posted 6/13/17

ELY - Ely is known as the gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and some call it the canoe capital of the world.

That simple watercraft was celebrated last weekend at the Second …

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Canoes celebrated in ‘Canoe Capital of the World’

Posted

ELY - Ely is known as the gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and some call it the canoe capital of the world.

That simple watercraft was celebrated last weekend at the Second Annual Great American Canoe Race and Festival. The festival honored the history and culture of the canoe, resulting in two days filled with races, recreational paddling, music, demonstrations and seminars.

But canoeing isn’t just a fun hobby for many people who live in Ely.

With a big portion of the city’s economy being supported by tourism, the sport is a part of Ely’s culture, history, and many of the city’s residents’ life styles.

Following the success last summer of building a birch bark canoe at the Ely Folk School, another canoe project is under way this year

This popular project not only teaches traditional canoe building, it helps bring the community together, according to Erik Simula, the lead instructor for the Birch Bark Canoe Building Program at the EFS.

The canoe made last year was on display for the two-day festival and interested paddlers had the opportunity to take the 13-foot-long Ojibwe style canoe for a short paddle on Shagawa Lake at Semer’s Park.

The weekend featured two races and a family paddle. The Ely Paddle Battle, a six-mile race along the shoreline of Shagawa Lake was held on Saturday, with both the race start and finish occurring at Semer’s Beach.

Inclement weather Sunday morning forced organizers to cancel the Mighty Paddle Challenge, a 17-mile paddle, 2.5-mile portage course across several lakes within the wild and scenic Superior National Forest. Racers made a shorter trek to Long Lake.

Racing was just one element of the festival. Both days were filled with everything one needs to know about paddling, camping, exploring and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).

There were seminars where visitors learned about backcountry cooking, paddling with a toddler, fishing in the BWCAW and more. Festival goers also enjoyed a cup of coffee and Crapola parfait and mingled with acclaimed authors at the literary breakfast on Sunday morning.

There were many vendors on hand to showcase their outdoor wares. Fest-goers had an opportunity to demo canoes, kayaks and SUP boards.

The Ely Folk School was on hand to teach basic canoeing, kids’ camping skills, portaging and packing, and other outdoor classes and there was live music throughout both days with a special “Live Music and S’mores Around the Campfire” on Saturday evening.

The Reel Paddling Film Festival World Tour, showcasesd the best of paddling films and is screened in 120 cities around the world.  These films inspire people to explore rivers, lakes and oceans, push extremes, embrace the paddling lifestyle, and appreciate the heritage of wild places. 

The Great American Canoe Race and Festival was made possible by the Events Coordinator Bureau—a collaboration of the Ely Chamber of Commerce, City of Ely, Ely Area Tourism Bureau, Merchant Committee and Incredible Ely.  It was produced by Stone Soup Events, an event planning company in Ely.

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