Remember, Remember the Gales of November

“Time sure flies” and all the rest that follows the cliched adage. But it certainly does fly, doesn’t it? Especially this time of year. My favorite time of all. That precious rent in the fabric of reality that is the week between Halloween and my birthday.  How lucky I am that each year my favorite holiday kicks off a one-week lead-up to my second favorite holiday.

Surprisingly, this was the first time since moving to the North Shore, that I was actually here for my birthday. I usually spend it road-tripping, returning to civilization for a few nights to remind all my family and friends that I’m still alive in the savage wild of the North Woods.

I get to live in the hub of tranquility and peace, and my dad thinks I’m the wildly brave lumberjack type. It’s sort of cute in a way.

Either way, I’ve always been curious what the Shore could offer me as a birthday gift (as if it could offer more than it’s given already). Halloween was awesome–we actually got Trick-or-Treaters. Like 10. That’s probably all the kids in town, right? Still, it was a thrill, bringing me back to the fond memories of the small town I grew up in, handing out candy at my grandparents’ house.

Best Halloween yet.

After that, I resolved to spend my actual birthday at Moguls, where my new family–my coworkers–would be, either for work or for play. I, of course, was there for the ‘play’ option.

And play I did.

While my birthday did bring out a few friends, the place was packed with the locals of Lutsen. I could tell you they were there for me, but, in actuality, it was the monthly Mug Club meeting. Convenient, no?

There was food and drink….and drink, and drink, and drink. I definitely underestimated the, er….generosity of the locals when it came to buying a fellow a birthday pint. That generosity, coupled with the Club’s complimentary “Birthday Das Boot“–which is exactly what you think it is–meant that I was royally…not parched.

It was a grand time. Or so I’ve been told.

In fact, it was so grand it made history! Okay, my birthday didn’t make history, per se, but the day itself did. November 7th was the kickoff of a bold, new tradition here on the North Shore: the Lake Superior Storm Festival.

You heard me. A new festival. Is there anything better? The Storm Festival celebrates the infamous Gales of November, the wild winds that stir up Lake Superior this time of year, which led to both the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald and all those awesome photos you see of waves crashing up over lighthouses and roadways. For years, these winds have brought intrepid stormchasers to the North Shore, inspiring art and battening hatches.

And the Gales are no joke. It’s like someone flips a cosmic switch at midnight on Halloween and triggers the angriest waters Superior has ever drudged up. Icy whiteheads crash against the rocks of the shore, unleashing their fury at being awakened after a summer of sleep.

See? I told you: it inspires art.

And now it has its own festival. A weekend-long celebration, complete with a ‘polar plunge’ into Superior, themed radio programming, and ‘Boreal Cyclone Pie’ crafted by the masters at The Pie Place–which I can assure you was devoured to the last crumb, as my friend and I discovered the next day when we tried to buy a slice. Perhaps next year I can find out what’s in it.

Is it another excuse for a festival? Maybe. But when have Minnesotans ever needed an excuse for a festival?

Maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s a badge of courage. Leave it to the North Star State to celebrate the brisk baby cousin of a hurricane, right? But that’s what so great about it. Instead of whining about the chill in the air, we grab it by the horns, wrestle it to the ground, and make a coat out of it. One we wear proudly.

Have you ever been up to the Shore this time of year? What do you remember most?

- Mikel




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