From My WindowIssue Date: February 13, 2020
Jane Thibodeau Martin
Saturday, Feb. 1, Mike and I attended one of those events that just screams "you are in Wisconsin!" to me. It was the Emmet Sno Drifters snowmobile club "vintage show and ride." Much like the annual antique tractor pull held on the same grounds, this was a lovefest between people and their machinery; but held on snow and ice instead of grass and dirt.
It helped that we have a great base of snow here in Central Wisconsin; all the same the club was pleased that the number of vintage snowmobiles entered doubled from last year's turnout.
I'd guess there were about 100 snowmobiles entered in the contest; plus many dozens more parked in the back. Probably half the attendees arrived on a snowmobile; and there was a nice crowd in the display area outside as well as in the cozy community center, where homemade chili lunches were selling briskly.
One of the things I love about these rural events is they are intended for families. There were excited kids everywhere, even little toddlers in snowsuits climbing on big snowbanks in the parking lot. Plenty of grandmas and grandpas were evident in the hall, providing nap laps for the littlest babes and socializing with each other while Mom and Dad took in the contest machines outside with the more active older kids. Everyone looked like they were having a great time and the weather couldn't have been nicer.
The stars of the show were the old snowmobiles. They were entered and parked in "classes." To be entered, each machine had to be judged as "capable" of running. There are unrestored classes, where a little rust and duct tape are not only allowed but welcomed; but any paint beyond original is banned. The bigger classes are broken up into sections of years, typically three year spans, such as 1968-71; then further divided into "original" and "restored" within each span. There's also classes for mini sleds (think Arctic Cat "Kitty Kats") and pull-behind cutters. A five judge panel picks winners; but the crowd votes for three special classes: Race Sled survivors; Rock Pile Ready and Best of Show. Besides the show categories there is a contest, "one pull" based on starting ease. I missed that, but the contest winner was beaming at the awards ceremony.
Some of the older snowmobiles I noticed were a 1969 Wildcat and a 1963 Skidoo, with the big bubble hood. There were a lot of manufacturers who I believe have "gone away" " Moto Ski, Mercury, AMF, Bolens, Raiders, Sno-bunny; Jac Trac, Rupp, and Scorpion. I didn't see any Ski-Daddlers, the snowmobile my Uncle Bill had, which had that the extreme luxury of electric start in the very early 70's. He lived in Chicago and left the snowmobile at my parent's house when he was not in Peshtigo, where we were welcome to use it; and use it we did to drag one another around on the "snow pan." What a generous gesture; I hope I thanked him adequately for it.
There were styles that also went by the wayside: the sit-inside style and the very unusual "Bolens Diablo Rouge," with two of these unusual snowmobiles in attendance, that had the track in front under the engine and the skis in back under the seat.
People wandered the contest area, pointing, looking under hoods and spotting a machine "just like my Dad had." Lots of pictures were taken of little kids standing next to that snowmobile that Grandpa rode thirty years ago. I even heard a story about my father-in-law making a dare-devil move on a group ride once.
One of my favorite displays was the "Ready for Rock Pile" group. One snowmobile had a hood almost totally composed of flattened-out Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans (I am NOT exaggerating,) and almost every single seat in the class seemed composed of 98 percent duct tape.
Late in the afternoon everyone crowded into the community center for the trophy awards announcements and raffles, along with some homemade desserts, Frito chili pie and a beer or two. Lots of good natured complaining about the judging was enjoyed by all; and a ride to a "teepee in the woods" on snowmobiles was organized and departed afterwards.
The club's trail crosses our land. We have no issue with it; the users stay on the trail and send us a gift card of appreciation at Christmas for allowing access to our property. Without the cooperation of landowners, there wouldn't be many places to ride expensive snowmobiles, and the local bar and grills would face leaner times in winter. Keeping the smowmobiles on specific designated trails minimizes the impact on wildlife and the environment, as well as keeping them off roads where the interactions with vehicles can be deadly. Mutual respect and appreciation make the whole system work.
I know from the club's Facebook page that at least one attendee came all the way from Texas and said the trip was well worth it. If you have a vintage snowmobile, even one that's "Ready for Rock Pile" watch for this annual event and get your trailer ready. Or, if you just like to look at old machines with a bunch of really nice people, see you next year.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.
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