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Iron Range Earth Fest: Promoting Sustainability Through a Great Family Festival

In the heart of the naturally stunning arrowhead of Northern Minnesota lies your next vacation destination: Mountain Iron. The town has a population of over 2,800 people and features a rich history dating back to the late 1800’s. With a nickname like “The Taconite Capital of the World” and the fact that the town literally sits on an underground mountain of iron, you know iron mining has been integral to the development of this community. In 1890, Leonidas Merritt was the first to discover the rich deposits of iron ore in the Mesabi Range. This initial discovery may have been one of the biggest moments in Minnesota mining history. The turn of the century brought continued growth to the area, with new people and companies looking to establish themselves through mining iron.  Mining remained the main driver of the local economy through the 20th century, and that combined with tourism is how the city thrives today.


A prime location on the edge of the George Washington State Forest makes this an oasis for outdoor enthusiasts. The vast wilderness presents you with multiple opportunities for hiking, biking, exploring, photography, wildlife viewing and more. Just outside town, you’ll find the locally famous Historic Overlook, where you can get a panoramic view of the area home to the first iron discovery back in 1890. There is also a preserved locomotive from 1910 at that site. It's a great chance to experience living history for anyone who visits. Mountain Iron and the surrounding communities are home to some spectacular events and festivals. One of which, the Iron Range Earth Fest, is a great way to kick off your spring.  


Heading into its eighth year, the Iron Range Earth Fest has been a big hit for people in the community and surrounding areas. The event is intended to highlight climate change and promote sustainability, all in a fun environment. The festival will feature around 80 vendors and exhibitors. You are able to purchase some great handmade items, learn about green businesses, and further you own knowledge pertaining to the environment and preservation. There will be live music and food for sale as well as the opportunity to network and meet some great like-minded people. got the chance to interview, Brian E. Bluhm, Executive Director of theIron Range Partnership for Sustainability, to talk about this great event.


RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.

BB: Earth Fest began in 2009 with a group of Iron Rangers who wanted to bring conversations about climate change and sustainability to the Iron Range. Their goal was to highlight unique solutions for Iron Range organizations, businesses and individuals with regard to these issues.


RAL: How many participants do you annually draw and who are they demographically?

BB: Each year Earth Fest attracts between 800 and 1,200 people. The Iron Range Earth Fest attracts a wide range of individuals. The event offers activities for kids, including the Green Innovator's Expo. Earth Fest features close to 80 exhibitors and vendors, representing a wide variety Iron Ranger organizations and businesses. We also feature presentations on a variety of specific topics. The focus of Earth Fest 2016 is "Living Local on a Changing Planet".  Presentations will focus on local entrepreneurship, local heritage, and local knowledge. For more information on anything mentioned, drop by ourwebsite.


RAL: What makes the event unique?

BB: Sustainability is about working towards a balance between economy, society and environment. The goal of sustainability is to provide for the present without compromising the needs of future generations. Earth Fest invites all community stakeholders, including mining companies and electric utilities, into the conversation about making our world a more sustainable place.


RAL: Take me through a typical day at the event.

BB: We will have all the previously mentioned: kids activities, exhibitors, vendors, and presentations. Earth Fest also features the Community Sustainability Initiative (CSI) Contest and CSI Silent Auction. TheCSI Contest provides local organizations, businesses, students, groups, and congregations with the chance to win $500 to put a community sustainability idea into action. The CSI Silent Auction proceeds provide awards for the Community Sustainability Initiative (CSI) contest. This auction also highlights some of the many sustainability-minded businesses, organizations, crafters and foods producers in the Arrowhead region.


RAL: Will you have any guest appearances?

BB: Yes, we have some great live music acts playing this year.

  • Christopher David Hanson Band

11am to 2pm in the Merritt Elementary School Auditorium


The Christopher David Hanson Band presents a soulful blend of timeless Rock and Roll, and all original American Roots music with hints of Motown, Swing, and Classic Country.  Formed in early 2013, the band has had a fantastic and fruitful career entertaining audiences and winning over fans across Minnesota. The band has played with a host of national acts, and they have also been featured a number of times on the PBS television program “The Playlist”.


  • Sharon Rowbottom and Dan Boyer

11am to 1pm in the Mt. Iron Community Center


R&B is Dan Boyer and Sharon Rowbottom. A member of the local music community for parts of the last five decades, this married duo is truly one of a kind. Their musical tastes include all styles of music from all eras. Their vocal harmonies have been the foundation of their collaboration supported by Dan’s tasteful and melodic guitar strains over Sharon’s rhythmic counterparts. They have enjoyed musical success with several different local music groups over the years. They are delighted to lend their talents to Earth Fest and are dedicated to promoting the sustainability of our resources for future generations.


RAL: What is the overall environment like?

BB: Earth Fest 2016 is a low-waste event.  Recycling and compost is available in all three venues. Exhibitors, vendors, and caterers are also encouraged to "reduce and reuse" before recycling (or composting) is necessary.


RAL: What can attendees expect to find for local lodging?

BB: This year we have a couple of great lodging partners for the festival. First is theGreen Gate Guest Houses, located in Biwabik, MN. The second is the Holiday Inn Express Suites Mountain Iron in Mountain Iron.


RAL: Why should people come?

BB: Earth Fest features what is unique about the Iron Range. Earth Fest also brings people from all across the Iron Range together to engage in collaboration to work together to achieve the necessary goal of sustainability.


For more information about the Iron Range Earth Fest, please visit theirwebsite.