ELY- It was billed as the Winter Festival this week in Ely, but Mother Nature had other ideas. The snow sculptures in Whiteside Park, a centerpiece of the eleven-day event, took a beating from the …
ELY- It was billed as the Winter Festival this week in Ely, but Mother Nature had other ideas. The snow sculptures in Whiteside Park, a centerpiece of the eleven-day event, took a beating from the extraordinarily warm temperatures this week, but festival events continue undaunted through this Sunday, Feb. 11.
The Ely Film Festival is the biggest event on the schedule for the winter festival’s second weekend, but it isn’t the only thing happening. The Listening Point Foundation has tours for Friday and Saturday, Feb. 9 and 10. The Ely Folk School is offering classes on chip carving, snow sculpting, and diamond willow carving over the weekend. The Ely Senior Center is hosting the Northern Lakes Arts Association’s “Down Town Arts Market” on Saturday, and wraps up the active festival events with a speed chess tournament on Sunday. Details on this weekend’s events are available at elywinterfestival.com.
The Ely ArtWalk will continue through the end of February, with the works of over 150 artists displayed in the windows of Ely’s downtown businesses and organizations. ArtWalk maps are available at Northern Grounds and online at elyartwalk.org/map.
Rolling into the second weekend of the festival, the Ely Film Festival no longer has all-access passes for sale, but tickets to individual shows are still available. According to film festival director Jacob White, half of the films and short film blocks are already sold out but movie-goers can place their names on a waiting list for the shows they hope to see. Those on the wait lists will have the opportunity to take the seats of those who don’t show up for sold-out shows.
Tickets for the film festival can be purchased online and also at Ely’s Historic State Theater up to the time of each film or short film block. The complete schedule for the film festival is at elyfilmfest.com.
No other event embodies the Ely Winter Festival better than the annual Snow Sculpting Symposium in Whiteside Park. The snow sculptors arrived in town on Wednesday, Jan. 31, and were treated to a private welcoming dinner, according to festival coordinator Shauna Vega. They began carving their 8x8 snow blocks on Thursday, Feb 1.
Like previous festivals, this year’s symposium drew an international array of snow sculptors, including two new teams from Canada and another visit from Germany’s award-winning Franziska Agrawal, a bronze medalist in the 2024 International Snowsculpture Championships. Agrawal’s snow sculptures explore different fantastical geometric shapes. This year’s sculpture for the festival was two orthorhombic prisms inside each other.
One of the new Canadian teams to visit the Ely Winter Festival was the Freeznart team of Daniel and Helen Friesenn from Winnipeg. Their “SnowBeast” sculpture was a twenty-foot long sea serpent-like creature which was perhaps the most eye-catching creation of this year’s festival with its street-side frontage along Sheridan St.
On Saturday afternoon, one of the magic moments of the weekend was the impromptu creation of a snow sculpture called the “Dragon Sapling.” This sculpture was the work of Ely ninth-grader Starla Forsman, who decided to craft it around the tree next to the “SnowBeast.” The head and front legs came out of the north-facing side of the tree trunk, and a tail came out the south end. After Forsman started her sculpture, the Friesenns lent her some of their snow sculpting tools and also offered her the extra eyeballs they made out of ice for the “SnowBeast.” It was a uniquely Ely moment at the winter festival.