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Boreal Community Media

In Ely, the whole town is going crazy for blueberries

Jul 18, 2021 05:54AM ● By Editor
Ely Kiwanis Club members serve blueberry pie at the 2019 Blueberry / Art Festival.  Photo: Tower Timberjay

By Keith Vandervort of the Tower Timberjay - July 16, 2021

After a year on hiatus because of public health concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic, the community’s signature art and craft event, the Blueberry/Art Festival, is back for 2021, hosted by the Ely Chamber of Commerce.

The Blueberry/Art Festival begins on Friday, July 23 and runs through Sunday, July 25. 
“This year’s festival will concentrate on arts, crafts, and food,” said Ely Chamber of Commerce Event Coordinator Ellen Cashman. 

Public health guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic led Chamber officials to downsize the festival this year. The 2021 Blueberry/Art Festival and Experience Ely Expo will be capped at a total of 220 vendors, down from a high of 300 vendors prior to 2019.

“We are going to put an additional six feet between each of the vendor which is decreasing our space,” said Chamber Executive Director Eva Sebesta.

“There may be fewer booths this year, but the quality of artists, crafters, and makers is amazing,” Cashman said.

Festival goers can also expect a reduction in the number of food vendors as that area of the park is also spread out. “We also have to modify the way the food court is laid out. That is always a huge congestion point,” Sebesta said. “We are trying to make sure we have a safe event, and we are giving vendors and our visitors the space to be safe.”

That being said, the food court will feature many returning favorites, such as the Kiwanis’ blueberry pies, Schweiby’s tasty burgers, and the Ely Fire Department’s pork chops on a stick.
“We have several new food vendors, including Bob-A-Q with delicious barbequed sandwiches, Now That’s Waffles featuring a variety of breakfast and dessert waffles, and Zoe’s Gone Bananas with sumptuous banana breads,” Cashman added.

The traditional Blueberry Pancake Breakfast, most recently hosted by the Incredible Ely group, is gone this year, as are the Ely Jaycee’s beer and beverage tent, the kiddis play area, and live musical entertainment.

New to the festival is The Fish Market. “Artist Dennis McMahan makes colorful and fanciful pottery fish and a variety of other pottery items,” Cashman said.  “Tonka Bay Fountains creates organic stone fountains generating the soothing sound of water that are perfect in garden settings. These are just two of the new artists participating in the festival.”

Of course, returning artists are showing new work, including Root River Photography, Watercolors by Bonnie, and 2019 first place winner William Close, according to Cashman.  
“Our featured local artist this year is Don Taylor with Barnwood Creations. Don has participated in the Blueberry/Art Festival for several years now,” she said.  “We look forward to seeing what new items he has created from reclaimed barn wood and other unique woods. Look for a special Blueberry/Art Festival section in the July 23 issue of the Timberjay that features Taylor.
Local non-profits have relied on the major tourist event to raise money for operations, but fewer will be participating this year. The new Experience Ely Expo format for the local organizations, originally planned to launch last year, will debut this year in a separate area of the Whiteside Park festival grounds.

While space was available for 20, only ten local groups applied, and just four organizations followed through to participate in the event, according to officials. Those organizations include the International Wolf Center, Ely Rotary Club, WICOLA (White Iron Chain of Lakes Association), and the Ely Health and Hospital Foundation.

The Ely Health and Hospital Foundation, in coordination with Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital, will offer a mini “health fair.”

“On Friday, their booth will provide free blood typing with representatives from Memorial Blood Center,” Cashman said. “On Saturday, they are offering 100 Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccinations to be given on a first-come, first-served basis. Saturday will also feature a demonstration of the da Vinci surgical robot.” Their booth will be located by the Whiteside Park band shell.

Last year, the Chamber created Operation Blueberry to support the business community during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Operation Blueberry was so successful that the Chamber is again holding this event starting on Friday, July 16 and running through the festival weekend,” Cashman said.

 Participating Ely businesses will be vying for prizes for the best banners or window displays.  Judging will take place on July 16.  Some businesses are offering blueberry products, special discounts, music, featured artists, or other activities throughout the 10-day event.  The Operation Blueberry map is available online at, or pick up a paper copy at the Chamber office at 1600 E Sheridan St.

To see the original story and read related posts, follow this link to the Tower Timberjay website.,17881
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