There’s no denying it’s been a tough winter for those who love winter sports and recreation, and it’s also been a hard season for communities that host cherished annual winter festivals. Some have been cancelled, others have been scaled back. But some got (barely) enough snow and ice to keep the festivities going.
Last weekend I happened to be going through Walker and realized it was the weekend of the Eelpout Festival. This year marked 33 years of all things eelpout, and Walker was ready to celebrate.
While there were plenty of ice houses out on Leech Lake, the warm spells caused some restrictions to be placed: buses, RVs, and motorhomes were prohibited, and other vehicles were requested to stagger parking at least 30 feet apart, all while noting that anyone who chose to go out on the ice chose to do so at their own risk.
It is a little odd to be in northern Minnesota in mid-February and find yourself walking on a sandy beach.
Nevertheless, there was plenty to do. Chase on the Lake was on hand for transportation.
Or you could take a spin behind a team of sled dogs.
You could shop for warmth-inducing goods.
Or you could hang out at the weighing station and check out the eelpout itself. Kind of an ugly beast, but I hear it makes a pretty good meal.
As I was watching people having their eelpout weighed, a young couple walked by me, the woman saying, “Well, the first Eelpout Festival after we get married, we’ll have to—“ and the gong sounded, leaving me in the dark as to what they’ll do for that special event.
There was food too, and a beer tent, and a polar plunge, live music, on-ice auto race, and even a Bikini Ice Fishing Team Fashion Show. Kudos to Walker for pulling this off in the most temperamental of Minnesota winters!
What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.