Vintage sleds take the stage
Vintage snowmobiles will be on display in not one, but two different Becker County events this Saturday, Feb. 5.
The One Lunger 100 Vintage Snowmobile Race will be held on the lake in front of Detroit Lakes' Holiday Inn, starting at 11 a.m., while just a short drive down Highway 10, the Lake Park Liquor Store will be hosting the start of the 21st annual Midnite Riders Old Timers Snowmobile Run at 10:30 a.m.
The One Lunger 100 has undergone a change of ownership this past year, as the Regional One Lunger Association (ROLA) sold the event to the Long Lake Vintage Snowmobile Racing Association (LLVSRA).
But no other changes are planned -- at least this year, according to event organizer Pete Stanius of LLVSRA.
"We're going to leave everything the same for now," Stanius said. "Maybe in the future there might be some rule changes, but... everyone likes it the way it is, and there's nothing wrong with it, so we'll leave it."
The race will include three different categories for vintage snowmobiles, circa 1973 or older, including HD Super Stock, HR Super Stock and Relic classes. Competitors can race with a single driver, or on a two-person team, with the second driver switching places about halfway through.
As the name implies, the race is a grueling 100 miles in length, with each rider required to navigate the 4- or 5-mile course approximately 20 times before they're finished.
"All three classes run at the same time," Stanius said, noting that the trail "will be groomed at first, but then it will get rough. You have to make it the full 100 miles."
Though all three classes use the same track, the drivers will have to separate into lanes at the end of each lap, so their times can be counted, Stanius explained.
"There will be some hairpins and straightaways, every style of corner turns... a little bit of everything," he said of the course layout.
The annual event usually draws approximately 100 racers, though weather and course conditions do play a part.
Stanius said he hoped to check out the course personally this weekend to make sure it's shipshape for the event.
"Hopefully, the lake is in good shape," he said.
Trail conditions won't be a problem for the Midnite Riders run in Lake Park, said event coordinator Bud Hovelson.
"The snow conditions are excellent," he said. "The main ingredient to a good snowmobile ride is good snow, and we've got lots of it."
The 40-mile route should also be well groomed, thanks to a new snow groomer that was added to Becker County's fleet this past year.
The Midnite Riders and ULTRA (United Lake Trail Riders Association) snowmobiling clubs also combined forces to purchase a new sled for pulling behind the tractor, Hovelson added.
Some of the proceeds from this Saturday's event will go toward that sled purchase, he added.
"The (groomer) they used out here last year was old and needed work," Hovelson continued. "The new groomer tractor and the skid were bought for this (western Becker County) area."
The Midnite Riders trails are all on private lands, Hovelson said, and include "everything from Sallie-Melissa (lakes) west to the Becker-Clay county line."
Registration for the Old Timers Run begins at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Lake Park Liquor Store. Trophies for the best sleds will be handed out at 10 a.m., there will be a drivers meeting at 10:15, and the run itself will start promptly at 10:30 a.m., Hovelson said.
A total of 20 trophies will be given at Saturday's event, as well as three or four cash prizes -- including a "Two Tickets to Paradise" grand prize, which is a $1,500 gift certificate to an area travel agency for use on a getaway for two, to a destination of the winner's choice.
In addition, each of the eight restaurants that are designated stops on the run -- Lake Park Liquor Store, Audubon Liquor Store, Pit 611, Cormorant Pub, Cormorant Inn & Suites, Cormorant Sportsmans Club, Randy's on Lake Eunice and the Roadhouse -- will have a cash prize of their own to give away to ticket holders.
Attendance at each year's Old Timers Run averages between 1,200-1,500 participants, Hovelson said.
"It averages about the same year to year, but if it's too cold or too warm or there's no snow, that has a major effect on the event," he added. "We have our die hard people that will come no matter what -- we do give away some really neat prizes."
Just like any other winter sport, "We're at the mercy of mother nature," Hovelson said. "If she cooperates, we'll really have fun. If she doesn't, some will still have fun, but not as much."
Besides the participants in the run, the event also draws quite a few spectators, Hovelson noted.
"We get a lot of older people -- just because they don't ride anymore doesn't mean they don't have an interest," he said.
There are also lots of families that come out to take a look at the vintage sleds.
And the Becker County Sheriff's Department is also on hand to make sure the ride goes smoothly, Hovelson said.
"We get a lot of cooperation from the sheriff's department... they always ride with us and make sure everything goes smoothly," he added.
"We haven't had any accidents. It's not a race, not a competitive event, it's a group snowmobile ride."
Still, he added, "We get a lot of serious snowmobilers out for this event. In the middle of the day, just go down to Pit 611 and look at the parking lot. You'll see every different kind of snowmobile you can imagine -- we draw a big variety.
"The riding in the lakes area is great, and this year we've got excellent snow, so I expect we'll have a good turnout. We'll have a lot of fun."
For more information about the Old Timers Snowmobile Run, call Bud Hovelson at 218-532-7255, or visit the Midnite Riders website at www.midniteriders.com.