Top Ten End-of-Summer Mesabi Events

Long year sunset - distant 15 (1280x853)

Soak up all the sun and fun you can this summer with the top 10 most magical Mesabi events in August:


#10. Movies in the Park On August 26, Veteran’s Park in Eveleth hosts movie night under the stars. You can’t do this in January! Bring a chair for a showing of “Minions” Concessions for sale one site.


#9. Rampage at the Ridge Best extreme 5K obstacle course in the state, for the best cause. Help area veterans programs when you get down, get dirty, and work together at this fun event August 20. Pre-party August 19.


#8. The Dirty Ores Roller derby mayhem and madness at its finest, in the majestic Hippodrome arena in Eveleth August 13.


#7. Merritt Days Mountain Iron is full of fun and music during this four-day event August 10-13 commemorating the founding of the town and the first Mesabi mine by none other than The Merritt Brothers.


#6. Fuzzy Dice Cruise and Car Show Downtown Virginia turns into a car lot for the classiest of machines during this Dream Machines Car Club car show and swap meet August 20.


#5. Doc “Moonlight” Graham Days August 10-14 the city of Chisholm is abuzz with activities including a fishing contest, live music all over the place, and a parade in honor of Field of Dreams character and native son, Doc Graham.


#4. Music in the Park Not to be confused with the Minions at #10. This is toe-tappin music by the Singing Slovenes in Biwabik’s City Park August 11.


#3. Iron Pour That’s right: make a mold, watch molten iron be poured into it, then break it open the next day. Very cool. And hot. At Minnesota Museum of Mining August 27.


#2. Great River Energy Mesabi Trail Tour Don’t worry! Hard core cycling skills not necessary! Totally family-friendly, lots of volunteers, food, drink, music and fun, all on the state’s best bicycle trail August 6.


#1. The County Fairs That’s right, on the Mesabi, we have three. Count ’em, THREE. The biggie is “the” St. Louis County Fair in Chisholm August 10-14, then there’s the homestyle Central St. Louis County Fair in Meadowlands August 19-21, and the ever-so-quirky-and-not-exactly-a-county-fair-but-still-awesome Embarrass Region Fair up in the woods, people, August 26-28. Fair food, animals, mud runs, horse shows, fair food, music, rides, contests, fair food. And more.  HIT THEM ALL. I say again, hit them all. Come February, you won’t regret it!


Still want more Awesome August events. Click right here.


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Iron Range Food Tour

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Venture north to Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range and you’ll find 75 miles of paved cycling trails, 60 miles of hiking trails, many small, friendly lakes, and one-of-a-kind attractions that explore the region’s history and mystery. The must-see list is long, but wherever the trails take you – into the woods, onto the course, or into the water – you’ll need to refuel! Try these regional specialties that hearken back to the early 1900s when many nationalities came to the region to work in the burgeoning iron ore mines. One serving of these comfort foods will make you feel strong like a miner, and give you a taste of some Mesabi magic.


They are (in no particular order):


1. Porketta – If you eat meat, you’ll be ordering these delicious roasts online for the rest of your life, or making a special trip north to buy them in our grocery stores. A rolled Italian pork roast covered with fennel, oregano, garlic and other spices, this slow-cooked nom-nom perfect for hard roll sammies. The drippings are great for dipping or gravy-making, but the porketta’s most common iteration is shredded on a bun and served at just about any family gathering, any time of year. Try a porketta sandwich at The Wandering Pines restaurant in Gilbert, or buy one from Sunrise Deli or Fraboni’s in Hibbing, or just about any grocery on the Range. The also-popular “turketta” (take a guess) can also be found in stores.


2. Sarma – These delightful little Serbian “pigs in a blanket” can be made a variety of ways, but I’ll describe the way I know. The filling is a large handful of seasoned ground pork and beef (ground ham or even veal is not-entirely-uncommon), mixed with rice. Wrapped in a leaf of sour head cabbage (basically, cabbage that’s been frozen, at least that’s the technique I learned), they’re cooked in a casserole dish or even stacked in a roasting pan and covered with sauerkraut and lightly seasoned tomato juice/sauce. Some make this without tomato – maybe purists or something – but I like the saucier version. So yummy. Serve with crusty bread. Buy these from the Hibbing Tourist Center Seniors (218-262-4166) or Sunrise Deli, also in Hibbing (218-263-5713).


3. Potica – Pronounced Po-teet-suh. Also pronounced delicious by, like, everyone. This pastry hails from eastern Europe – Slovenians, Slovakians, Croatians et al serve some equally yummy version of this. My favorite has paper thin bread layers, a process that involves stretching the sweet dough to the size of a large dining room table. Others like a thicker dough layer. Either way, the filling of finely chopped walnuts (or pecans, sometimes with apples or even raisins) mixed with a sweetener – sugar or honey – and cinnamon, among other things, is spread onto the dough and rolled, cut and baked into a cherished holiday treat the size of a loaf of bread. Some like it served warm with butter, but honestly, the nut filling is rich enough that potica is fab cold, too. Purchase at Italian Bakery in Virginia, Andres European Pastry in Chisholm, and Sunrise Bakery in Hibbing.


4. Pasty. Pronounced past-ee, this meat pie carries its heat and shape, and thus made it a lunchtime staple among the working men of the mines back in the day. Many still adore this dish today, and pasties are monthly money-making, mass-production projects for a solid number of church groups across the Range. Basically, root veg like potatoes, carrots and rutabaga (this last ingredient is controversial. I’m going to go pro-“root-a-baggy”), and onions, and seasoned with S&P and mixed with ground beef and/or pork. The crust MUST BE made using lard. Roll the dough, put the filling in, and fold the dough, crimping the edge. Bake and voila: your pasty. Serve with butter, gravy, ketchup or all three. These hearty little guys are a meal of their own. Can be purchased frozen at Sunrise Bakery in Hibbing. Groups get a kick out of the “pasty in a pail” miners’ lunch experience at Minnesota Discovery Center.


There you have it, four of our favorites. Find them during your next visit to the Mesabi. Questions? 218-749-8161.

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Warm up at these Mesabi restaurants

Fabulous food, delightful digs

Plenty of Mesabi restaurants deliver great food to your table, but these four stand out for having a great vibe, too. If you’re hungry for hot food and a warm atmosphere, be sure to stop at The Shop Coffee House in Virginia, The Whistling Bird in Gilbert, BoomTown Woodfire in Eveleth, or (and?) Kunnari’s Kitchen in Virginia. You’ll find specialty coffees, prime rib dinners, seasonal dishes with local produce, hot soups, fresh bread, even Caribbean cuisine in these delightful restaurants!

Make room for fantastic fare

The Shop is known for wood-fired pizzas, awesome coffee, soups and goodies served up in an artistically redesigned downtown building, complete with exposed brick walls and works by local artists. The neighboring 218 Taphouse brings you music, special events and a variety of craft beers. On Gilbert’s main street, The Whistling Bird transports you to the islands, with plenty of seafood, surf and turf, jerk flavorings and tropical drinks. The decor matches the menu: bright, tasty and fun. Over in Eveleth’s BoomTown, enjoy comfort food with a twist, complemented by a rich and delicious wine, beer and drinks menu. Completely remodeled for that classic chop house feel. At Kunnari’s, enjoy homemade soups, salads, breads and pastries, plus hot drinks and more, all with a farm to table concept and great service.

Hospitality, cooked to perfection

Each of these venues has an eye toward pleasing the modern palate, not only with food, but through events like special mulit-course date nights, live acoustic music, food and wine pairings/tastings, create-and-dine nights, brunch, and of course, daily specials. Patronize these four restaurants and you’ll leave well-fed and treated well, too!


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Mesabi Is Magic

Aurora Northern Lights VNice

Why “Mesabi”? 

In the far north of Minnesota, just below the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, bordering the Superior National Forest, is the greatest of the state’s four major iron ore deposits: the Mesabi.

Mesabi comes from a Native American word that is said to describe the vast glacier that once covered the area, a giant who laid upon the treasures of the earth for many years as he slept. Mesabi was also the name given to the constellation Orion by the indigenous people who lived in this resource-rich region.

Sculpted by nature and industry

Today, Mesabi is the crossroads of industry and nature, staking claim to woodlands, minelands, lakes,  rivers, starry skies, Native legends, immigrant stories, and foods, words and pastimes that are almost uniquely Mesabi. This is a land sculpted by nature and industry – first the massive sheets of ice that scraped away topsoil as they moved south, leaving exposed rocks and hundreds of lakes in their wake – then, the loggers who came for timber and finally the prospectors who searched for gold but found iron ore instead. And as the extraction of the ore began shaping the landscape in the 1890s, its use in the steelmaking process began to shape the nation.

Visitors to the area discover the story of the land, the people, and the mines of Mesabi, through museums, activities and events. Active learners will appreciate an opportunity to ride the Mesabi Trail, a 175-mile paved corridor that weaves past sweeping mine views, through forested areas, and alongside clear blue lakes. Other recreation includes kayaking, dogsledding, rock hunting, guided snowshoeing, golf and much more.

Big, historic attractions

Tour an active mine, ride a vintage trolley like the ones that connected the many towns of Mesabi, explore a mining ghost town and sample or even learn to cook traditional foods like sarma, potica, pasty or lefse.  Hear the serenade of an accordion player and learn to dance a polka. View the childhood home of Bob Dylan and see the stage where he performed as a high school student. Tour America’s hockey mecca in Eveleth, home to many great players, or try your hand at another ice sport: curling.

This destination is loaded with American history, the history of scrappy, hard-working miners whose toil helped win two world wars. The Mesabi offers a unique touring experience on its own, but also compliments a tour that includes historic ties to Ely, the North Shore of Lake Superior, and/or Duluth.

Wherever your Mesabi adventure takes you, from the rugged landscape to the starry skies and everywhere in between, you’ll come to understand why Mesabi is Magic.


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Let’s Make Some Snow!

Like all Midwestern ski resorts, Giants Ridge targets Thanksgiving weekend for its opening date. This usually depends on the temps, of course. “Real” snow isn’t necessary – ski hills the caliber of Giants Ridge will make their own. Every run might not be open, but enthusiasts will be out there anyway, taking advantage of their favorite sport: downhill skiing or boarding. Don’t forget the tubing park! Surrounded by nordic trails, snowshoe trails and even fat bike trails, Giants Ridge makes for a great winter getaway. After all, humans aren’t meant to hibernate! Make plans to experience outdoor winter fun on the Iron Range, and set some time aside to discover our museums, events and great places to eat and shop while you’re here! Click around and get planning!


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Hunting Season is Here

What’s it like during hunting season on the Iron Range? Orange is the color of the day, not only for hunters, but anyone in the great outdoors this time of year. Even dogs wear orange neckerchiefs or collars so they stand out in the brown foliage of the season. Hunting clothes hang outdoors (to air out and lose the scents that might keep deer away) and hunters stock up on the food they’ll need to fuel long days in the deer stand or on the drive. Bread, lunchmeat, mini-candybars and chili usually top the lists! Whether you’re headed to your own land, or somewhere in the Superior National Forest, the brisk air, the quiet woods and some kind of wildlife (maybe not a deer, though) await. Coming in from out of the area? It’s easy to find a friendly place to stay.buckinfield Happy hunting!

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Best fall hikes on the Iron Range

Lookout Mountain Looking for an afternoon hike, say, 1-4 hours, maybe after a morning on the golf course or visiting area museums? Head up to the Laurentian Divide Recreation Area, a US Forest Service site that serves as the trailhead for Lookout Mountain, and a 15-mile trail system. The site, along North America’s north-south continental divide, is just north of Virginia on Hwy 53. Click for map.

Giants Ridge Explore 10 miles of trails at Giants Ridge near Biwabik that lead through forests, to the top of the ski hill, and near Wynne Creek. Nice fall colors on three loop trails, all between 3 and 4 miles long. Click for map.

Carey Lake After checking out historic sites in Hibbing (Bob Dylan’s childhood home, maybe?), head out to Carey Lake, a municipal park with loop trail lengths of two to four miles. Pines and birch make for colorful views. Click for map.

Want more info, like where to eat or stay? Call 800-777-8497. LaurentianDivideKids




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Bike Trails, Races & Tours


From the Mississippi River to the Boundary Waters, the Mesabi Trail is an epic landmark for bicyclists, hikers, and inline skaters alike – as well as the winter snowmobilers. Read more

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Summer Festivals on the Iron Range


One thing that the Iron Range is well known for is its enthusiastic participation in a variety of summer festivals.  From the Land of the Loon to the Harvest Moon festival, the summer months are full of opportunities to obtain unique handcrafted masterpieces, deep fried food, and the opportunity to spend some quality time out of doors.

Nearly every town on the Range hosts its own festival to showcase the talents of local artisans.  Here is a look at just a few of the available summer festivals: Read more

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Great Places to Eat on the Iron Range


We all like to hear about where the “locals” eat.  Truthfully, the Iron Range restaurants that are still open consistently deliver great plates of food and a unique atmosphere. (Iron Rangers are too picky to allow anything less than really good restaurants into the region!) But – if you really want to know, here are a couple local secrets that you might want to check out when you are searching for great places to eat: Read more

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