It truly is bittersweet to be leaving Ely this weekend. New things always await us at some point, but when those new things involve leaving the Northwoods it’s impossible to truly feel “ready” to move onto other ventures. Nonetheless, the time of the season and temperature both seemed to align for a perfect sendoff at Harvest Moon Festival. I had such a good time that I paid a visit to the festival all three days. Leaving this place might be inevitable, but if there’s a festival in town I’m going to make sure I leave 5lbs heavier and with my wallet 5lbs lighter.
With the holiday season on the horizon, the festival was the perfect opportunity to go all out on gifts for the family and loved ones. My first “stop” was at a black tent that stood out like a sore thumb from the rows of white tents. The vendor was The Studio Candle Co., and it only took one sniff of the first candle I grabbed to realize the imminent danger that my finances were in. Nonetheless, I never see my mother go a day without burning a candle in her home office, so I walked away with a cinnamon stick scented candle and a birthday cake candle (decorated with sprinkles on top). The lovely vendor who checked me out commented on how quickly I finished browsing and I laughed, “I’m getting out of here before I can’t afford groceries.”
It wasn’t long at all before I found my chance to secure a gift for my partner, because Beverly’s Jewels was one tent over and I found a perfect pair of hand-cut lapis lazuli earrings. There were several vendors with precious stone jewelry and making the final choice was excruciatingly difficult. But before my generously impulsive gift spending could completely take hold of me, I needed to swing by the food trucks and get some lunch.
I typically only get one opportunity a year to visit anything festival-like and I have a list of fair foods I need to experience every year, so I got to work bulking up before the cold seasons approached. My first stop was to acquire a food truck corn dog. Frozen, boxed corn dogs do not compare, and I only get the “real” thing once a year. After finishing that off, I was called upon by someone at the Wilderness Wood Fire truck to try a slice of their all meat pizza. They were very persuasive, and I have no regrets. Their definition of a “slice” apparently differs from mine, because I had to remove my size 13 boot to compare the width of the slice against it. They were basically identical. I folded the slice and it was still a formidable piece of food. So worth it.
Opting to skip dinner and get the most out of my first festival outing, I ventured to Becky’s Oriental Foods for one last savory outing. I ordered the combo meal of fried rice, cream cheese wontons, and egg roll. I could go on a multi-paragraph tangent about how ham is the best meat to put in fried rice and how ham fried rice is tragically uncommon, but I will contain my excitement and just say that the fried rice at Becky’s included ham, something I was elated to discover. The wontons were some of the most delicious I’ve ever had and the egg roll was also wonderful. Before completely incapacitating myself through food, I decided to keep wandering the vendor booths to get in the rest of my (now sorely needed) 10,000 steps for the day.
One of the most fun parts of Harvest Moon Festival was perusing all the fantastic art and photography on display. I only intended on buying knick-knacks for family and friends, but my wallet began getting to my head and I made it my mission to acquire some sort of memento with lush Northwoods scenery to remember my stay up here. The trouble was settling on what to walk away with, because there was an abundance of enthralling landscape and nature paintings and other art. Dafne Caruso’s Art, Nature's Harmony, Jim Schnortz Photography, Superior Photographs, and Watercolors by Bonnie all had wonderful pieces that attracted my gaze, but it wouldn’t be until Sunday that I would finally make a non-food purchase for myself.
My sweet tooth would begin acting up during my following visits to the festival. Alongside a second serving of that spectacular fried rice, I acquired multiple crepes (strawberry cheesecake and pumpkin pie, respectively) and mini donuts (another yearly fair food essential). I feel like I might need to atone for overlooking crepes all these years because my stomach yearns for more.
Friday was very cloudy but once the rain had stopped, the temperature was perfect. Saturday was a nice mix of sun and clouds, and Sunday was a gorgeous, cloud-free day. The temperature could not have been more perfect for a festival weekend, which meant I was ready to continue spending.
Lacking self-control in terms of my gift-giving sensibilities, I got my partner another necklace. But she now had 2 keepsakes from the fair and I had zero, so I needed to even the score a little. I passed by LHR images a few times over the course of the weekend and was captivated by the stunning photography every time. What caught my eye and refused to leave my mind were the gorgeous drink coasters of landscapes and wildlife. I told the vendor I would return for my coasters, and return I did. We struck up a wonderful conversation about my internship, my experience in town, and his plans to relocate to Ely in the coming months. With coasters in hand, I was ready to depart the festival for the final time.
All in all, I had an amazing time at the Harvest Moon Festival. The small-town community aura could be felt in the air all weekend, and experiencing this town’s unique brand of camaraderie and charm with my belt on the verge of bursting felt like the only appropriate send off for me. It’s the only kind of sendoff I could’ve wanted.
‘Til next time, Ely.