Inaugural Esko Winterfest event a hit
Esko Community Education and Esko Community Partnership hosted the event, which featured local businesses and community groups.
ESKO — Hosted by Esko Community Education and Esko Community Partnership, the inaugural Esko Winterfest at Esko High School on Saturday, Feb. 18, featured activities for all ages, including games and activities for children and a local business expo.
Michele Carlson, Esko Community Education director and Esko Community Partnership president, helped to organize the event she hopes to continue to grow.
"So far, people have been really excited because there’s a little something for everyone. I think we have also pulled in some more of our older generation who come to see the businesses. The businesses have been happy with the attendance. They’re seeing a good turnout, so I think this is just a really good learning experience in our first year and see where we can go from here to build a little bigger,” Carlson said. “This is a combination of events for kids, but also for local businesses, for the parents to recognize how many businesses we have in this area and how we can continue to support them in their success as well."
“We’re a group of local businesses or individuals, or even sports groups, that really just want to support the area into being a better place for all of our community members,” said Courtney Greiner, secretary of the Esko Community Partnership and owner of Mini Mos. “We started this group a while ago. It’s progressed into kind of where we are today to really support the community and raise money for Esko Fun Days.”
Kory Deadrick is the vice president of Esko Community Partnership. He said the main goal of Winterfest was to bring Esko businesses together.
"We’re not really a storefront type of community, but there’s a lot of home-based businesses here, and we just want to create awareness of that,” Deadrick said. “Everybody’s been appreciative of this event. It is the first time we’ve done this. I think the biggest thing moving forward is just to continue to grow and continue to have it. There’s a lot of businesses I know of that aren’t here, so just creating that awareness to bring that together so when people need a service or they need something they can shop among Esko businesses, because we have so many here locally.”
Deadrick added, “I just think it’s important to support businesses that give back to the school, the kids and to the community so much. We don’t need to go to Duluth. We don’t need to go to Cloquet. A lot of times, a lot of really good businesses are here in Esko."
For future Winterfest events, Carlson hopes for more businesses to join the expo.
“I think we can definitely fit in more businesses. My ultimate goal would be to fill our entire fieldhouse with businesses and make it a really big event for the community,” Carlson said. “It’s kind of just a win-win for the community. Recovering from COVID, we had lost quite a few events that we used to do. We used to do a Fall Harvest Fest. We had done something called Santa’s Workshop, where we had hands-on activities for kids. We never had a business component before, but I’ve always wanted to have one. This was just an idea of how can we put all those things back together and try to do it in one day because it might be really cool.”
There were 15 businesses there to sell items and share about their services. One hour into the event, there were more than 100 families attending.
Tricia Lough, an independent Pampered Chef consultant, said, “I just recently moved to the Esko area, so for me this is a really great opportunity to meet new people and embrace the community. I think it’s going really well. I’ve gotten to meet a couple people and I’m getting new connections myself.”
Angela Michaud of Rootstock Herbals said, “We sell herbal products to support our communities and help people heal naturally, and use the things that they have growing around them. The event is going great so far. We’ve had quite a few people come and people are interested in what we have and it’s fun talking with everybody and sharing what we know.”
The student leadership group, Esko Leads, raised funds with carnival-type games like face painting, ring pop toss, a sucker pull and an obstacle course. Concessions were provided by Mike’s Cafe & Pizzeria.
Younger children enjoyed a sensory zone put on by Early Childhood Family Education staff. School Readiness staff offered a science zone with STEM activities.
“I thought it was a great time to do something to get people out in the middle of winter,” said Shannon Matzdorf, Early Childhood Family Education and School Readiness coordinator.