Stir crazy is an understatement when describing the more than 12,000 participants and visitors who descend on Walker, Minn. (pop. 1,500) for three days every February for The Annual International Eelpout Festival. The festival, always a spectacle, is known for providing a mid-winter respite for the many hearty Midwesterners looking for an outlet during a long Minnesota winter. The revelry and gamesmanship that ensues has drawn the curiosity of countless reporters and media over the years including national coverage from big-hitters like the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Animal Planet. At the center of the Eelpout Festival is the long-held tradition of angling the world’s only true gamefish and one of the ugliest bottom-dwelling catches out there - The Eelpout.
The 35th-annual event held February 20-23, kicks off Thursday night with a torch-lighting ceremony. Weekend “Chase the Pout” events include:
§Pout Curling: Teams will throw “The Eelpout Rock” and try “sweeping” to victory. Walker’s local curling club will facilitate the “stone-pout” throws and button landings
§Eelpout Beer Pong: A festival favorite! $20 gets your team into this bracket-style, single elimination contest. Prizes include cash and Eelpout-themed apparel. To register, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
§Eelpout Rugby: Bemidji State Rugby Teams will take to the ice to capture the 2014 Eelpout Rugby crown
§Polar Pout Plunge: Countless costumed characters are cheered on by a massive crowd before plunging into the frozen depths of Leech Lake. Money raised benefits the Walker Area Community Center.
§Eelpout Weigh In: This awards ceremony is on Sunday at the city park and includes thousands of dollars in prizes for the most pout pounds. Last year’s winner, a 14-pounder! (That’s a lot of eelpout nuggets!)
Annual must-see and must-try Eelpout traditions:
§Sip an ice cold drink at the 40,000 pound Coors Ice Castle, an ice bar built (literally) on the lake!
§Enjoy the Eelpout Fish Fry including REAL eelpout nuggets fried with Goose Antler Batter.
§Tour thelake encampments (some built from scratch) and immerse yourself in a culture simply too unique to explain to those who “haven’t been”. For example, ever ridden a couch-mobile?
About the International Eelpout Festival
Entering into its 35th year, the Annual International Eelpout Festival attracts more than 12,000 participants and visitors to Walker, Minn. (pop. 1,500) for three days every February. This year’s festival officially begins at 6pm on Feb. 20 and concludes at 11:00 a.m. on Feb. 23. All participants must be registered and have in their possession an official International Eelpout Festival button, which may be purchased at the registration tent at Walker City Park or at participating Walker area businesses. Cost of a button is $10. Visit the official site at: www.eelpoutfestival.com