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International Eelpout Festival canceled for 2020

The organizers said they've tried to work with the county for five months to come up with a solution but "the economics no longer work."
Eelpout Festival

WALKER, Minnesota — The legendary International Eelpout Festival has been canceled in Walker, Minnesota this year.

The festival organizers posted the announcement on their website, saying that they have come to an "impasse" with Cass County over lake enforcement.

"Over the years, attendance has multiplied substantially," the announcement reads. "Each year with more attendees, equals – more traffic, more trash and more safety concerns."

The organizers said they've tried to work with the county for five months to come up with a solution but "the economics no longer work."

They said they also looked into moving the festival from Leech Lake to downtown Walker, but they could not come up with an "acceptable permit process."

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"In the past years we committed tens of thousands of dollars on lake clean up annually plus supplied services such as porta-potties, ice road maintenance and trash pick-up," organizers wrote. "Unfortunately, the costs of all these items are rising and the inability to enforce clean up and participation for all festival goers, attendees and vendors it is no longer feasible to operate the festival under the County requirements that change and increase every year."

Cass County Administrator Josh Stevenson told KARE 11 that the decision to cancel the high-profile festival was news to him and other government officials. "We're not sure what the impasse is," Stevenson said, referring to the statement released by Eelpout Festival organizers. He said unpredictable weather in recent years and a re-classification of species involving the eelpout have affected the festival, but did not know anything about the economics impacting the cancellation.

Stevenson also said Cass County would be open to discussions should promoters change their minds about holding the festival.  

The International Eelpout Festival would have been in its 41st year this February. It brings more than 12,000 people to the small town with a population of 1,069, for four days of outdoor winter activities.