The prodigal eelpout festival returns

After flirting with a move to Bemidji, the International Eelpout Festival will remain at Walker, Minnesota, on the shores of Leech Lake after all.

Bemidji, it turns out, didn’t want the ugly fish fete, forcing organizers to flop their way back to their old ice fishing holes in Walker.

This is essentially the same experience eelpout have when they are caught and thrown back amid sounds of disgust and horror.

From a Forum News Service story:

“We are committed to further nurturing our collaboration with the business leaders, residents and municipalities here in Walker,” Eelpout Festival Owner Jared Olson said in the release. “After investigating all options we felt were feasible to ensure the growth and sustainability of the event, we concluded that staying in Walker is the best interest of the festival and the nearly 12,000 people who attend every year.”

In early October, Olson submitted a permit application to Beltrami County to possibly move the festival from Walker to Bemidji — about 35 miles northwest. No action on the permit has been taken yet, but the Bemidji City Council was set to vote Monday on a resolution opposing the move.

The resolution included wording about pollution prevention and recent efforts to improve shore quality. It also notes that the Mississippi River flowing into Lake Bemidji creates dangerous ice conditions.

The resolution also cited public safety concerns: The Eelpout Festival is “known to create multiple public safety and health issues regarding and relating to the excessive consumption of alcohol, trash/litter, parking concerns, drunk driving, public indecencies and a strain on local law enforcement and public works capacity,” the resolution reads.

The 39th Annual International Eelpout Festival will take place Feb. 22-25, 2018 at Walker Bay on Leech Lake.

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