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Vote means Eelpout Festival needs permit

WALKER – With the mid-February Eelpout Festival fishing contest on Leech Lake fast approaching, Cass County commissioners again this year wrestled Tuesday with the question of whether the county's Lawful Assembly Ordinance applies to that event.

 Last year, on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Dick Downham opposed, the board voted to not require a mass gathering permit from the county, but to require the festival to provide a written plan to the board for event management and clean-up.

 Tuesday, County Attorney Christopher Strandlie told the board the county's Lawful Assembly Ordinance does apply to events on water as well as on land. The ordinance does not provide a method for the board to exempt specific events from it, he added.

 If the board does not want to require a permit, the board would have to declare a moratorium from the ordinance for all mass gathering events and call for the board to study ordinance provisions and to make revisions, Strandlie said.

 The alternative would be to enforce the ordinance as it stands, including to apply it to the Eelpout Festival, he said.

 On another split vote, Commissioners Bob Kangas, Jeff Peterson and Downham approved a decision not to review the county ordinance at this time. Commissioners Jim Dowson and Neal Gaalswyk voted against. The effect will be to require a county permit from the Eelpout Festival this year.

 State statute also requires event promoters for events held on water to obtain a permit from the county sheriff, which Eelpout Festival promoters have obtained in prior years and will be expected to do so again this year. The state permit requirements are not as extensive as those in the county ordinance.