The cancellation of the Eelpout Festival left a lot of people surprised, especially the staff at the Chase on the Lake, who already had scheduled bands and other vendors for an event that can draw up to 10,000 visitors each year.
Monday night, two Chase on the Lake staff members were at Walker Council meeting with a proposal to create an on-shore event for the weekend of Feb. 20-23.
While the name of event is still in the works, bands and other vendors had already been scheduled for that weekend, and the Chase said they will fulfill those commitments.
Jesse Westberg, the Chase Resort’s general manager, told the council they are creating a winter block party that will bring people to town. If the event takes off, Westberg and Colette Huston, the Chase Resort’s director of sales, is inviting other businesses on board for next year.
The Chase proposal also includes withdrawing its application for a vendor village in the lower city park that was to be held in conjunction with the Eelpout Festival, which the council approved. The new proposal is to close the end of Fifth Street near the city pier with a 50- by 100-foot tent erected. There would be trash receptacles outside and near the entrance, portable toilets, and fence around the tent for safety. The tent will be secured by weights so no street damage will occur.
The council voted unanimously to allow the Chase to hold the off-ice party, adding they will work with them to re-brand this event.
The city expects some blow back from those who want the event to completely go away. That would be a huge blow to businesses who, for the last 40 years, have counted on those visitors coming to Walker. Councilor Jim Senenfelder said this community needs that economic boost.
The council also addressed the comments on Facebook from people who still plan on coming to Walker for Eelpout and to set up on the lake.
“There will be people who will still show up that weekend and go on the lake. That is out of our control,” Mayor Jed Shaw said.
In a meeting with Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch and County Administrator Josh Stevenson, the unsafe ice conditions were discussed. Shaw said that Sheriff Burch told him it’s too early to determine if access to the lake will be closed.
Shaw said both Burch and Stevenson were supportive of the Chase tent.
Police Chief Wayne Tennis requested the council also open the lower park green space for people to park their campers and vehicles.
Senenfelder asked about the mess left on the streets.
Chief Tennis said the city crews have always done a good job of cleaning up the streets, adding the mess left behind on the Fourth of July is much worse than Eelpout. But no one sees it because crews begin work at night to pick up the garbage in the park and city streets.
More information on the Chase Block Party, that will include live band performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday, will be publicized once the schedule is finalized.