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Great American Canoe Race and Festival dates announced

The Ely Chamber of Commerce announced the dates of the second annual Great American Canoe Race and Festival this week.

The event was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, June 10-11. The festival honors the history and culture of the canoe, resulting in two days filled with races, recreational paddling, music, demonstrations and seminars.

The weekend features two races and a family paddle. The Ely Paddle Battle is a 6-mile race along the shoreline of Shagawa Lake. It will be held on Saturday, with both the race start and finish occurring at Semer's Beach. This race is suitable for paddlers of most experience levels, and is perfect for couples, parents and children or those who want to loosen their muscles in preparation for Sunday's race.

Sunday brings the Mighty Paddle Challenge, a 17-mile paddle, 2.5 mile portage race. The race spans across several lakes within the Superior National Forest. Racers will also traverse portage trails of varying lengths as they move from lake to lake along the course.

For 2017, both races are mixed class with no restrictions on boat sizes.

Recreational paddlers who do not wish to race can join the Family Fun Paddle. There will be five checkpoints around Shagawa Lake. Each checkpoint will offer a treasure, such as a water bottle, lunch, ice cream, etc. This is not a race, so paddlers do not need to go to every checkpoint. Instead, they can create their own route and choose the checkpoints to which they want to go. This is a perfect family-friendly or youth group activity. The entry fee is $45 and for every entry for the Family Fun Paddle, the Great American Canoe Festival will donate $5 toward the Washington Elementary Playground Project fundraiser.

Registrations are open for all three paddles. Visit to sign up.

Racing is just one element of the festival. It is two days filled with everything anyone would need to know about paddling, camping, exploring and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). There will be seminars on both days where visitors can learn about backcountry cooking, paddling with a toddler, fishing in the BWCAW and more. They can also have a cup of coffee and Crapola parfait and mingle with acclaimed authors at the literary breakfast on Sunday morning. There will be many vendors on hand to showcase their outdoor wares; fest-goers can demo canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddle (SUP) boards.

The Ely Folk School will be on hand to teach basic canoeing, kid's camping skills, portaging and packing, and other outdoor classes and there will be live music throughout both days with a special "Live Music and S'mores Around the Campfire" on Saturday evening.

The Great American Canoe Race and Festival is made possible by the Events Coordinator Bureau — a collaboration of the Ely Chamber of Commerce, city of Ely, Ely Area Tourism Bureau, Merchant Committee and Incredible Ely. It is produced by Stone Soup Events, an event planning company in Ely.

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