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Dark Sky Festival
December 9, 2021 - December 11, 2021
Dark Sky Festival
Thanks for joining us or the 2021 Dark Sky Festival! Join us in 2022 on the second weekend in December!
Cook County is home to one of the darkest skies in the world. Every year, explorers, adventurers, artists and photographers from around the world travel to Cook County to experience the northern lights. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) has been named as one of only 15 certified International Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the world! And at over a million acres, it is the largest. Help us to celebrate our world-class dark sky at the third Dark Sky Festival!
Most presentations are FREE but with limited capacity for safety. Early sign-up is recommended.
THURSDAY, DEC. 9
4-8 p.m. | Dark Skies Dinner, Constellation Presentation and Celestial Legends Guided Night Hike | Gunflint Lodge, Gunflint Trail – *Reservation Required
There’s no better place to experience our world class dark sky than the Gunflint Trail on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Join us for opening night at the historic Gunflint Lodge for a special night including a Dark Skies dinner in the Boundary Waters Hall with a Constellation Presentation followed by a guided Celestial Legends night hike (overnight stay not required.)
Located right on the edge of the Boundary Waters International Dark Sky Sanctuary and 45 miles from the nearest town, astronomers, photographers, explorers, adventurers, and artists of all types make their way up the Gunflint Trail to Gunflint Lodge & Outfitters to experience the magic of the night sky. And December, with its long nights and early sunsets, is the best time of year to experience dark skies and see the Milky Way, constellations, and maybe even Northern Lights.
Stay in a lakeside fireplace cabin Dec. 8-10 with Gunflint Lodge’s Dark Skies Package, with dark sky dinner, presentation and night hike included.
FRIDAY, DEC. 10
4:30 p.m. | Winter Constellation Stories with Emma Adams | Studio 21, Grand Marais – *Ticket Required
Have you ever wondered why the Big Bear Ursa major has such a long tail? Or where some of the names of our winter constellations come from? Join Chik-Wauk Museum & Nature Center Naturalist Emma Adams for an hour-long program of stories explaining different mythologies and beliefs about the night sky from around the world.
6 p.m. | Turn Out the Lights! | Harbor Park, Grand Marais
Join us in Harbor Park overlooking Lake Superior and watch as Grand Marais goes dark for a few minutes to enjoy a dark[er] sky over the iconic harbor.
6:15-10 p.m. | Star Party | Voyageur Brewing Company, Grand Marais
Join staff and students from the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium at Voyageur Brewing for a Star Party that will include telescope viewing, a live star/constellation show under the stars, and delicious food and drink. *Telescope viewing and live star/constellation show are weather permitting, but Star Party to take place with activities regardless of weather.
SATURDAY, DEC. 11
3 p.m. | Animals and Dark Skies with Steve Robertsen & BWCAW Dark Sky Sanctuary with Mike Crotteau | Studio 21, Grand Marais – *Ticket Required
Learn about nocturnal animals and the impacts lights have on mammals, insects and birds from Superior National Forest Interpreter Steve Robertsen. You’ll also hear about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Dark Sky Sanctuary from Gunflint District Ranger Mike Crotteau.
4 p.m. | Saving the Dark – a Documentary Movie and Q&A with Starry Skies North IDA | Johnson Heritage Post Art Gallery, Grand Marais – *Ticket Required
Join members of the International Dark Sky Association Duluth Chapter, Starry Skies North, for a one hour documentary feature about the significance of astronomy and the night skies, effects of light pollution on astronomy, human health, wildlife and beyond, and what we can do to fight it. Following the documentary will be a Q&A about dark skies, light pollution and home & business lighting choices.
5:30 p.m. | Break for Dinner | Around Town
Please take this time to head to any of the wonderful dining options available in the area before coming back for more programming later in the evening. Check here to find out which restaurants are open and their hours!
7 p.m. | Asteroids, Meteors and Comets Oh My!! with Emma Adams | Studio 21, Grand Marais – *Ticket Required
There is a lot of stuff flying out in space. Hear from Chik-Wauk Museum & Nature Center Naturalist Emma Adams to find out about the history and science behind near earth objects. Near earth Objects are more commonly known as asteroids, meteors and comets. This presentation will also explore the Geminids meteor shower.
8 p.m. | Dark Sky Adventures with Travis Novitsky | Johnson Heritage Post Art Gallery, Grand Marais – *Ticket Required
Travis will share stories, insights, and adventures to help illuminate the mystery and beauty of the dark skies still found in Minnesota’s Arrowhead region. Travis is a life-long resident of the north shore of Lake Superior and a citizen of the Grand Portage Anishinaabe Nation. A self-taught nature and wildlife photographer, he has been photographing the night sky for over 20 years.
9:30 p.m. | Night Sky Walk | Lake Loop Trail at municipal campground, Grand Marais
Join us for a short night time walk to view constellations and experience the night sky with Caroline Torkildson, member of Starry Skies North and a Superior National Forest employee, and dark sky photographer Travis Novitsky. Bring binoculars and meet at the Grand Marais Municipal Campground. The group will take a short, accessible hike in Sweethearts Bluff Nature Area along the Lake Loop Trail. Trailhead parking is off the western road in the campground. *Night Sky Walk will be weather/conditions dependent
Interested in learning more about dark skies before the festival? Read WTIP’s 2019 article by Joe Friedrichs on Night Skies for Northern Wilds, you can find that here.
Listen to an interview by John Barentine, program director of the International Dark Sky Association, talking with Dick Feb. 27, 2015, on WTIP Community Radio about light pollution and the benefits of a dark sky: