Every year, vintage snowmobile enthusiasts congregate in Lake Park on the first Saturday in February for the Midnite Riders Classic Old Timers Run and Snowmobile Show. This year's event is coming up next Saturday, Feb. 2.
Hosted by the Midnite Riders Snowmobile Club, the run has been a tradition among lakes area snowmobiling enthusiasts since the early 1990s.
According to organizer Bill Livdahl, riders begin gathering outside the Lake Park Liquor Store at about 8 a.m. on the morning of the event, though the run itself doesn't start until 10:30 a.m. That's because the judging for the vintage sleds - 25 years or older - gets underway bright and early, with trophies being awarded at 10 a.m. Prizes are awarded to the best-looking and most creatively-decorated sleds in several categories.
"The judging is only for the vintage sleds," said Livdahl, though the run itself is open to snowmobiles both old and new.
"It's got to be a snowmobile, but they can be old ones, new ones, modified, homemade, restored, original - anything they can get running, basically," he joked. On a more serious note, however, no ATVs, dirt bikes or four-wheelers are allowed on the Midnite Riders' trails, as they receive state Grant-in-Aid funding to help keep them groomed and in good condition throughout the snowmobiling season.
Even with good trail conditions, keeping the sleds running over the course of the 39-mile Old Timers Run can be a real challenge, Livdahl said.
"It's one of the longer runs of its kind," he said. "It takes quite a bit of work to keep your sled going - it's not just pulling your sled out of the shop and hoping it's going to run that day. A lot of us bring extra parts, extra gas, and lots of tools. Sometimes you have to put a lot of elbow grease into 'em - your hands can get pretty black by the end of the day."
There are nine stops on the run, including the Lake Park and Audubon liquor stores, Pit 611, the Cormorant Sportsmans Club, Hooligan's on Leaf Lake, The Roadhouse, Cormorant Pub, Cormorant Inn, and TJ's on Lake Eunice. Though the ride gets underway promptly at 10:30, not everyone chooses to follow the same route, Livdahl noted.
"Some go to Audubon first, then head south, while some just head straight south out of Lake Park," Livdahl said, noting that while there's no set route to follow, there are nine stops along the run.
One thing that he would like to emphasize, however, is the importance of staying off private property.
"Please stay on the trails," Livdahl said, noting that the club must adhere to state trespassing laws whenever they host a ride.
Each of the nine participating businesses is offering a raffle prize, all of which are included in the cost of the raffle tickets, which are $10 each. A total of over $5,000 in prizes will be awarded, with the top prize once again being a 2019 WE Fest VIP ticket package, plus $500 in cash. Tickets are available in advance or on the day of the ride at any of the participating businesses. The prize drawing will be held the following Monday, Feb. 4, Livdahl added.
All proceeds will be going toward maintenance and development of the Midnite Riders' trail system, which now encompasses over 70 miles in the Lake Park, Audubon and Cormorant Lakes area.
Established in 1967, the Midnite Riders Snowmobile Club currently includes approximately 100 members, of all ages and skill levels. Putting together the Old Timers Run each year is a big project for the club's membership, Livdahl said, but they do get help from the Lake Park firefighters and city maintenance crews, who help get the liquor store lot cleared and parking organized.
There are also dozens of businesses that sponsor the run, including BTD Manufacturing, TEAM Industries, Seaberg Power Sports, Leighton Broadcasting, TS Recreational Salvage, Extreme Motorsports and the Cormorant Store.
"We get help from a wide variety of people," Livdahl said. "This wouldn't be possible without them."
Despite all of the work that goes into preparations for the run, he added, "the main idea is to just come out and have fun."
For more information, please visit the Midnite Riders' Facebook page, or call Livdahl at 701-866-1580.