Three new loon champs; Tomlinson, Richter and Dunn show off their coos and trills

BIG CROWD on hand on the deck at the Chocolate Moose as emcee Tom Coombe called out for the next contestant in the loon calling contest. Photos by Pam Roberts

by Tom Coombe -

The rain stopped just in time.
In its 32-year history, the Loony Day loon calling contest has never been rained out.
That streak seemed in jeopardy Tuesday afternoon, but a heavy downpour came to a halt and the sun peaked out just in time for the annual contest outside the Chocolate Moose.
The rain, which picked up again just as the contest was coming to a close, appeared to hold down participation and three new champions were crowned this year.
Ben Tomlinson of Cleveland topped a small adult field, while Elyites topped the youth divisions, with Atticus Richter first among the boys and Lucy Dunn taking the girls competition.
Overall, the contest attracted 20 participants, down from 27 a year ago, and an appreciative audience of about 75 people looked on as the contestants offered their best imitations of the coos and trills of local loon.
The sounds resonated downtown as the audience looked in the courtyard between the Chocolate Moose and Piragis Northwoods Company.
Elyite Lucy Dunn, who won the adult category in five of the last six years, did not participate Tuesday - clearing the way for Tomlinson.
The Ohio native wowed contest judges with his loon call and won both the gold medal and $20 in Chamber bucks that goes to the victor.
In second was Laura Harm of Madison, Wiconsin, while Gilda Romero of Plymouth took third.
The boys contest took on a new twist this year with the absence of longtime contestants the Beyer siblings of New Jersey.
Stepping up and taking first was Richter, a six-and-a-half-year-old from Ely.
Braden Jonas of Ely, age five, was in second place while Eden Prairie’s Andy Killoran was in third.
The girls’ contest drew the most participants, and it was an Ely sweep at the top, with Dunn taking first followed by Juliet Stouffer, 12, and Madison Jonas, 7.
Protected a bit from the hot sun by a canopy that extended from the deck at the Chocolate Moose, participants came one-by-one to the microphone held by longtime contest judge Steve Schon, then stuck around to pick up their free ice cream cone.
A few members of the crowd even took home some prizes.
The winners of prize packages - all valued at $100 or more and including gift certificates and prizes from a variety of Ely area businesses - were Eric Schaffer, Erin Tomlinson, Jeanie Tomlinson, Brooklyn Sherman and Lindi Zemke.
For the first time ever, the contest was carried live over the internet, via the Ely Echo’s Facebook page and a Facebook Live connection.
The contest capped off the Loony Day celebration, now three decades old, and local loon callers competed against visitors from across the country.
During the initial event, loon callers stood on the back of a pontoon boat on First Avenue East, but the contest has been at its current home for almost all of its existence.
Loony Day is sponsored by the Ely Echo, the Chocolate Moose, Piragis Northwoods Company and the Ely Chamber of Commerce.