Sunday, February 17, 2013


New Orleans has Mardi Gras, Munich has Oktoberfest and northern Minnesota has the Eelpout Festival in Walker. It is an International annual gathering of crazy people ready to party and celebrate the Eelpout. This is a bottom dwelling fish described as a cross between catfish and eel. While Leech Lake in Walker is known for its Walleye fishing it is also known for the often forgotten eelpout. It is is a unique fish since it is like an eel but when caught like a snake because it can spin around your arm much to the surprise of the person catching it. They have beady eyes that are spread across the head. In other words rather creepy looking in my estimation.
Believe it or not people actually eat it and eelpout is known as the poor man's lobster. When deep fried into nuggets it has a rubbery taste and not a lot flavor. I actually tasted one and lived to tell! And Bella really enjoyed the leftovers.
Well the skies were sunny, no wind and temps in the 20's as we made our way to the festival. There are some things in life to fully understand you need to experience it first hand. This festival may be one of them. It  is definitely a party on ice. There are fishing contests for the eelpout, a polar plunge to raise funds for the community, kiss the eelpout for good luck, snowmobiling races, helicopter rides and "a wee bit of drinking" along the way.
Leech lake is the third largest lake in Minnesota . It has 195 miles of shoreline and a maximum depth of 150 feet. But nothing prepared me for the entire city that had sprang up on the ice for the weekend. As far as one could see there were snowmobiles, RVs, ice houses, ATVs and crowds of people all having a good time.
Roads and pathways had been carved out for all the traffic getting to and from and the ice.
Which in turn created a huge traffic jam of those trying to maneuver out.
The Polar Plunge was definitely a show stopper. The participants wore all sorts of outfits as they plunged into the icy waters to raise money for the Walker community.
Elvis sang with his chorus before taking the plunge.
I did manage to catch this group in mid air just before they touched water.
The ice bar was quite eye catching with its neon lights, ice carvings and a long ice bar.
The festival organizers set out 10 years ago looking for a way to attract winter tourists to Walker during a cold month. They did succeed since I heard there were some 10, 000 visitors that descended on a tiny town where the population from the 2012 census registered 941. Though I do have to add it is a resort town. There are a lot of summer homes and those households are not factored into the census count.
It was quite the party on ice.  I now have stories to share with my lake neighbors :)

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1 comment:

  1. Love reading about events like this which I have not been to. That ice bar is certainly cool, pun intended.