Organizers Announce 2020 International Eelpout Festival Cancelled
Less than one year after celebrating the 40th anniversary of the on-ice party on Leech Lake in Walker, MN, event organizers announced this year's festivities have been cancelled.
In a post on the event's Facebook page and website on Thursday, event organizers shared that the event will not go on as planned in February for the 41st year, following an impasse with Cass County officials in relation to a number of factors.
The festival, which celebrated 40 years in February of 2019, featured a number of on-ice events off the shore of Walker, Minnesota on Leech Lake. Among many traditional events were an official opening ceremony, beer pong, "pout curling", the "Polar Pout Plunge", eelpout fishing, eelpout kissing, an eelpout fry, and many other events for the whole family.
In the post, it is detailed that event attendance "has multiplied substantially" over recent years, which leads to increasing concerns over added traffic/traffic control, trash left on the ice, and other safety concerns. The post explains that they have been working with law enforcement officials for the past 5 months to develop solutions for this year's event, but they were unable to come to any sort of agreement.
One of the major points discussed in the post is trash removal and enforcement of trash removal on the lake, which is where the event has traditionally taken place every year. Organizers say they have invested "tens of thousands of dollars" into annual lake cleanup, ice roads, porta-potties, and trash cleanup after the event. The increasing costs of these efforts and an inability to enforce cleanup among festival-goers and vendors has made it "no longer feasible to operate the festival under the County requirements that change and increase every year."
In an effort to salvage the event, organizers explored a plan that would move the commercial elements of the festival ashore, into Downtown Walker, where different rules would apply. No agreement was able to be reached with this plan either.
They concluded the post with a thank you message to loyal "pouters" who attended over the years. While the post did not say that there will never again be an organized festival, the wording of the post seems to imply that revisiting the event isn't likely.
Here is the full contents of the post:
If you've never been to this huge Northern Minnesota festival before, it's a big deal. It had drawn roughly 10,000 people to the little town of Walker (which has a population of less than 1,000) for the three-day event every February. You can check out a video from 2015 below to see the sheer size of this event.