The 40th Blueberry/Art Festival in Ely was canceled Friday night after high winds tore through the area and damaged most of the vendors' booths.

The severe storm moved in shortly before 7 p.m., after the first full day of the three-day festival, and lasted no more than 15 minutes at its most severe.

"I've been doing shows for 15 years and have been through some pretty bad storms, but nothing this bad," Ryan Tischer, of Tischer Gallery in Duluth, said. "I would say about 75% of the booths at the show had significant damage, if not a total loss."

A brief storm damaged most of the vendor tents at the Blueberry/Art Festival Friday, July 23, 2021, in Ely. The festival has been canceled for the rest of the weekend. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Tischer)
A brief storm damaged most of the vendor tents at the Blueberry/Art Festival Friday, July 23, 2021, in Ely. The festival has been canceled for the rest of the weekend. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Tischer)

Tischer was one of the lucky few whose tent and merchandise weren't damaged in the storm. About 200 vendors were participating in the region's largest art fair. He credited his heavy duty, $1,500 tent.

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The festival reported on its Facebook page that no one was injured in the storm and asked the public to avoid Whiteside Park Saturday morning during the clean-up process.

A brief storm damaged most of the vendor tents at the Blueberry/Art Festival Friday, July 23, 2021, in Ely. The festival has been canceled for the rest of the weekend. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Tischer)
A brief storm damaged most of the vendor tents at the Blueberry/Art Festival Friday, July 23, 2021, in Ely. The festival has been canceled for the rest of the weekend. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Tischer)

"Thank you to the entire community for your support following the storm and as we continue the work today," the festival wrote.

While art fairs are no longer Tischer's main source of income for his photography business, he said it's one of the biggest income generators for many of the artists who planned to work through the weekend.

"It's like taking a several-thousand-dollar pay cut for the year," he said. "It's going to be really hard on a lot of artists. You go to a show hoping to make money."

A brief storm damaged most of the vendor tents at the Blueberry/Art Festival Friday, July 23, 2021, evening in Ely. The festival has been canceled for the rest of the weekend. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Tischer)
A brief storm damaged most of the vendor tents at the Blueberry/Art Festival Friday, July 23, 2021, evening in Ely. The festival has been canceled for the rest of the weekend. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Tischer)

Wind gusts reached as high as 55 miles per hour in some places, Jonathan Wolfe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth, said. A rough line from the International Falls area, through Ely to the Tofte area experienced the worst of the storm.

Reports of storm damage around the region include more than 25 reports of trees down, downed powerlines and outages as well as a few toppled canoes that led to successful water rescues.

Wind speeds as high as 64 mph were recorded around 5 a.m. at the Duluth airport, and the weather service has received several reports of trees down in the Twin Ports as well.

Most areas received between one and two inches of rain, far from quenching the current drought conditions. As of Saturday, Duluth was 5.26 inches below normal precipitation levels for the year.

"We still have a long way to go," Wolfe said.