February 2, 2000

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


Over the last two weeks it has been fun watching the city crew build all those big white cubes in White Side Park. There were so many of them. It reminded me of a big bunch of presents just waiting to be opened. All that was missing were bows and ribbons. I am sure many in Ely feel as I do and canít wait to see what wonderful objects díart will be revealed when all these white wrapped presents are opened.

Now the waiting is over and I must say I am not disappointed. Snow is such a wonderful material for sculpting. It is so pure in its white color, yet under close inspection one sees the sparkle of light coming off its crystalline surface. It reminds me of polished marble. Sadly, snow last so short a time.

Snow sculpting is an investment in the here and now. Snow Sculptures are not like the pyramids that were built for eternity. They are not built for posterity. These wonderful snow sculptures are built for us. It is only for those that live in Ely or make the effort to come and experience this transitory wonder. Like sunsets, you must be at the right place and at the right time. Move to another perspective and the sunset looks tired and bleak.

In a short time these wonders of frozen water will fade and wilt like a week old rose. In some sense, I enjoy the process of decay of these frozen monuments as much as I enjoyed the anticipation of their creation. My eyes feast when they are at their peak of beauty, but I enjoy reflecting about their chance-induced destruction as well. It humbles us by the reminder that none of our labors will last long in an ever changing world.

Out of this fleeting exhibit of snow art, I come to appreciate the here and now. What we should remember is that much of Ely is just as transitory as those huge snow sculptures. The spirit of a town ebbs and flows over time. Sometimes a townís spirit reaches a peak and seems to do no wrong. Athens had such a moment in the Age of Pericles. Creativity, art, business, and the body politic all seemed to work together to make something special. No doubt, Ely has seen several peaks as well as many valleys in her hundred plus years.

I believe we are approaching a peak of sorts. One has only to look at the wonderful bandstand and pavilion at White Side Park. So much goes on in this little park. Car shows, Cancer Walks, Festivals and music delight us throughout the year.

All over the town there is a sense of rebuilding Ely. Most of the old historic buildings on Elyís main streets have or are being fixed up to their past glory. A responsive and concerned business community gives to so many outstanding projects that I canít begin to catalog it here. People volunteer so many times to so many community efforts that Ely is a joy to live in and be a part of.

I donít know how long this Renaissance will last in Ely, but like the snow sculptures in White Side Park; I will enjoy it all for as long as it lasts. I pray it will last for as long as I am lucky to exist. I hope everyone in the community cherishes the moment of our Florence of the North. We are lucky to have so many of the Muses working their magic in Ely. For I can see their blessings in the snow sculptures, the plays, the music, and in the spirit of a small town hidden in the Superior National Forest.


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