Greetings to all of you as we bring 2020 to a close, perhaps with a sigh of relief and hope that 2021 will be less chaotic. All of us here at the Ely Folk School, our staff, board, and volunteers, are grateful for the support from students,  donors, grantor organizations, and Covid relief funds that have helped us keep going through the 2020 roller coaster.

Offering classes online required a sharp learning curve and a shifting of perspective about what “classes” and “community” and “getting together” look like. We found quickly that we really did feel connected when we Zoomed together, and students often made cross-country connections with family members or friends they hadn’t seen in person for a long time. So, Lacey Squire debuted as the “I just like to eat” chef with her delightful cooking instructions and tips. Kim Garrett filled the virtual classroom with enthusiastic rosemaling students, and Les Conrad kept his students on their toes learning the ins and outs of Adobe Lightroom. Steve Engel joined our team sharing a lifetime of knowledge about tracking animals, and new instructor Erika Barnhill shared her wisdom regarding nutrition and health. Newcomer Deb Schanilec showed people how to bring focus into their lives with organizational journaling, Bart Dunning taught patience and precision with chip carving, and Bob King opened our eyes to the wondrous cosmic events bringing 2020 to an truly astronomical conclusion. Allie Austin brought her depth of knowledge about chaga and all things nutritious, and Laura Berlage showed us how to turn a wad of wool roving into an arctic fox.

The year also brought offerings from outstanding instructors Ken Hupila, Phil Leino, DyAnne Korda, Jamie Brennan, Cecilia Rolando, Kay Vanderfort, John Zazada, Joey Kenig, Tim Stauffer, John Bajda, Holly Rom, Susan Covey, Jill Dalbacka, Elizabeth Engelke, Carolyn Quick, Diane Loughery, Bert Hyde, Mark Olson, Claire Taylor, Mary Louise Icenhour, Matthew Fedders, LynnAnne Vesper, Peta Barrett, Heidi Breaker, Betty Firth, Sarah Malick-Wahls, John Kopp, Faith Clover, Diane Thomson, Paul Webster, Nora Rickey, and Rena Hartman Rothauge. Thanks to all of you for enriching the Ely Folk School with your enthusiasm and many talents. We look forward to filling our classrooms with your students once again.

My personal thanks and deep appreciation go out to our loyal volunteers, Jodi Chaffin, Carol Orban, Pat Bieber, Deb Funk, Sue Duffy, Martha Vazquez, Cathy Vanderboom, Debbie Cook, Mark Heisdorffer, John Kopp, Steve Engel, and Wade Pharr, and our small but mighty board, Paul Schurke, Chris Clemens, Johnnie Hyde, Lacey Squire, and Tanner Ott, who will be leaving the board having served since the inception of the Folk School. Thank you and best wishes, Tanner!

Thanks to Pam Kewley for her excellent work with the books and Irene Hartfield for her magic with the keyboard in the virtual world as our web manager. We all welcome Lucy Soderstrom, who has joined me in the office, and Alexia Springer, who will be contributing her skills and ideas for social media and all things virtual.

We have much to be grateful for and hope you are all doing well and staying healthy. We have an abundance of online and outdoors classes during the Ely Winter Festival this February, so take a look. You’re bound to find something that suits your fancy, and we look forward to seeing you. We also have gift certificates available for purchase on our website, so treat your friend or favorite aunt to a diversion in the dark of winter.

Happy New Year,
Betty Firth, Program Coordinator