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Flooding doesn’t stop crowds for Agate Days

Elm Street in downtown Moose Lake is covered with rocks and people, who are digging through the two-block-long trail of rocks to find agates and coins during the Clark-Olsen Agate Stampede Saturday afternoon during Agate Days. Photos by Jana Peterson/ 1 / 5
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Duluth’s Ty Mayne (left) and James Paulson of Blackhoof Township look for pretty rocks and quarters during the stampede.3 / 5
Colleen Myhre sings to the crowd gathered for Art in the Park Saturday at Moose Lake City Park.4 / 5
A miniature lighthouse gets some light in this display by J&G Lake Superior Agates and Gifts at the Gem and Mineral Show at Moose Lake High School Saturday.5 / 5

Although Moose Lake residents were staring down a flood earlier in the week, the only thing covering the streets of the southern Carlton County town on Saturday were rocks, quarters and hordes of people.

They came in all sizes and ages, lining up and down both sides of Elm Avenue, 10- or 20-people deep in places by 2 p.m., waiting for two dump trucks to relinquish their load of rocks, agates and $400 in quarters for the Clark-Olsen Agate Stampede, the flagship event of Moose Lake’s Agate Days event.

Once the cannon fired, it was a polite rush to the middle of the street, with more bodies than there was space to huddle and pick through rocks.

For many of the youngest kids, it was just another day of rock picking. For others, however, it was a chance to find hidden treasures.

It was easy to spot the professionals. Armed with spray bottles of water, gloves, aprons and plastic buckets filled with more water, they were methodical, searching through the rocks, washing and rinsing when a possible find emerged from the dusty pile.

Then there were the novice hunters.

In front of Joe Jitters coffee house, 3-year-old James Paulson of Blackhoof Township wore a bright green cinch sack backwards, so he could easily drop any interesting rocks inside. Next to him was another 3-year-old, Duluth’s Ty Mayne, dressed in a less useful but more exotic Superman cape, along with a sensible sun hat. Neither boys could tell an agate from an opal, but both seemed blissfully happy to be picking up rocks.

Paulson’s mom, Jessica, said she brought all three of her sons to Agate Days this year.

“They go agate hunting on our road, but this is their first time here,” she said, helping James squeeze a dusty flat rock into his bag of goodies.

It was the 47th year for the annual event. Known as the "Agate Capital of the World," Moose Lake is home to the world's largest agate on record, weighing in at 108 pounds. It’s probably safe to say there was at least a ton of agates to be found in Moose Lake over the weekend, between Elm Street and the Gem and Mineral Show a few blocks away at Moose Lake High School. Inside and outside of the school, shoppers and rock hounds could peruse jewelry, fossils, a variety of large rocks of different types and even home decor — including a miniature lighthouse and lamps by J&G Lake Superior Agates and Gifts — studded with smaller agates sure to add polish any curio cabinet.

Art in the Park also drew numerous vendors and musical acts, although swimming in the nearby Moosehead Lake was forbidden as the floodwaters were still higher than normal.

Because of contamination in the flooded lake, washed out bike trails and damage to many local roadways as well as water still covering part of the running route, the 2016 Moose Triathlon was canceled.

Moose Lake City Administrator Tim Peterson said he thought the only other Agate Days event to be canceled was the flea market, which was supposed to take place at the hockey arena.

“With all the dirt from the berm outside, we thought it best to not track in a bunch of mud,” Peterson said. “Other than that, it was packed.”