ELEPHANT LAKE – Seven-year-old Sawyer Smith straddled the seat of a 1965 Arctic Cat. The youngster would be operating the sled for the first time, according to his dad, Terry, who accompanied Sawyer to Melgeorge’s Antique and Classic Snowmobile Races held Saturday at Elephant Lake.
The Arctic Cat once belonged to Terry’s grandpa and has been in the family for years. “We grew up on snowmobiles,” said Terry, who has attended all but one of the 27 races and shows held for nearly three decades at Melgeorge’s Elephant Lake Resort. “If you’re old enough to start it, you’re old enough to drive it.”
The Smiths, who hail from Mora, were among a record crowd for this year’s event. The races usually attract about 70 entries, according to Carla Koch, but there were 93 entries this year. “We went through all our bibs and had to hand-make some additional bibs,” she said.
A fresh blanket of snow over already good trails helped draw the crowd, she speculated.
Eric Lipke, from Hutchinson, called it perfect weather for the races. “Last year, the sun was out and it started to melt all the snow,” he said. “There was no danger of that this year and it’s nice enough to enjoy being outdoors.”
Lipke, who owns 20 old sleds, said he enjoys restoring and operating old snowmobiles. “It’s a hobby of mine and I’m passing it on to my son,” said Lipke, who has been attending the Antique and Classic Snowmobile Races at Elephant Lake for about 15 years.
Jacob Lipke, 11, was perched on the seat of a 1967 Ski-Doo. The machine features a twin track with a single ski in the front that operates like the rudder on a boat. The machine, flecked with rust, showed its age. “We got the engine running and haven’t done much else to the machine,” joked Eric, who said the early snowmobile models were designed as workhorses for trappers and farmers, not for touring the countryside.
Koch said a number of youngsters took part in the races and several got trophies to take home. “It’s helping keep the tradition alive when you can get kids hooked on driving and restoring old sleds,” she said.
A wide variety of sleds from snowmobiling’s past were on display. Some were in pristine shape, like the aluminum-bodied Super Snowbug owned by Ryan Holman of Orr. Others were like relics rescued from the trash heap, with scars and dents from years of use.
Nels Gabrielson, of Orr, was driving a 1971 Ski-Doo he had purchased for $50. “It’s burned and beaten and dented,” said Gabrielson, “but it runs.” He used parts from two motors to build a new engine for the machine, which has a top speed of about 40 mph.
“I love old stuff and I love working on motors,” the 17-year-old said.
Meanwhile, Whitney Rolle was helping keep tradition alive in her own way. She was driving a 1963 Trail Maker that had been owned by her great-grandfather Elmer Smith, who first started the antique and classic snowmobile show on Pelican Lake.
Elmer’s son, Vaughn, maintains the machine and keeps it going each winter. The Trail Maker even bears the signature of its maker, Abe Matthew, who ran into Vaughn at the Pines and Mines Parade in Hibbing a few years back.
“My dad had a lot of these old machines,” said Vaughn. “I’m trying to pick them up and piece them back together.”
Saturday’s event was preceded by a vintage sled trail ride to Trail’s End and back held in late February. About 20 people took part in the trail ride, Koch said.
The races also featured a raffle for prizes with proceeds going to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Koch said this year’s raffle raised $1,925 for the foundation.
She thanked all those who donated prizes for the raffle and the volunteers who helped put on the event.
“Our volunteer crew were amazing and we were just so happy to have their help,” said Koch. “It was a very successful event.”
Melgeorge’s Antique And Classic Snowmobile Race Results
Rear engine 8 HP and under – First place, Katie Ezell, Gilbert, 1964 Foxtrac; second place, Whitney Rolle, Apple Valley, 1963 Trail Maker.
Rear engine 9 HP and over – First place, Terry Wagner, Tower, 1962 Arctic Cat; second place, Jacob Holman, Orr, 1960 Polaris Autoboggin.
Two-cycle 9 HP and under – First place, Jill Wagner, Tower, 1964 Ski-Doo; second place, Paige Jowers, Biwabek, 1964 Ski-Doo.
Two-cycle 10 HP and over – First place, Robery Jaunca, Chisholm, 1967 Ski-Doo Olympic; second place, Curtis Granquist, Proctor, 1964 Ski-Doo.
Four-cycle 9 HP and under – First place, Sawyer Smith, Mora, 1965 Arctic Cat.
250-300 CC’s-Stock, air-cooled – First place, Pat Bourgeois, Elk River, 1972 Arctic Cat Lynx; second place, Adam Sixberry, Side Lake, 1972 Polaris TX.
250-300 CC’s- Modified, air-cooled – First place, Jesse Newman, Buffalo, 1973 Rupp; second place, Jessie Brunner, Cook, 1974 Colt SS 250.
340-400 CC’s-Stock, liquid-cooled – No entries
340-400 CC’s-Stock, air-cooled – First place, Robert Dethloff, Virginia, 1977 Polaris TX; second place, Jaret Sandberg, Cook, 1976 Polaris Colt SS.
340-400 CC’s-Modified, liquid-cooled - No entries
340-400 CC’s-Modified, air-cooled – First place, Pat Bourgeois, Elk River, 1978 Yamaha Enticer; second place, Charlie Travaille, Good Thunder, 1980 Ski-Doo Citation SS.
440-500 CC’s-Stock, liquid-cooled – First place, Cory Arnold, Grantsburg, Wis., 1978 Arctic Cat El Tigre 6000; second place, Randy Arnold, International Falls, 1978 Arctic Cat El Tigre 6000.
440-500 CC’s-Stock, air-cooled – First place, Mike Bonnevich, Big Lake, 1977 Polaris TX; second place, Jessie Nelson, Mountain Iron, 1973 Arctic Cat El Tigre.
440-500 CC’s-Modified, liquid-cooled – First place, Charlie Travaille, Good Thunder, 1973 Chappera II SS.
440-500 CC’s-Modified, air-cooled – First place, Ryan Long, Orr, 1973 Polaris TX 500.
500 CC’s and Up-Stock, air-cooled - First place, Dale Long, Orr, 1972 Ski-Doo 775 TNT.
250-300 CC’s-Stock – First place, Travis Salo, Tower, 1979 Scorpion Lil Whip; second place, Skyler Smith, Mora, 1979 Chrysler SnoRunner.
340-400 CC’s-Stock – First place, Jack Underwood, Moscow, Minn.,1980 Yamaha Enticer; second place, Jacob Coyle, Hibbing, 1979 Arctic Cat Jag.
440-500 CC’s-Stock – First place, Steve Carlson, Rochester, 1980 Scorpion; second place, Tom Wentsworth, Kensett, Iowa, Scorpion Sidewinder 80.
550 CC’s-Stock – First place, Ed Zakrzewski, Balkan, 1986 Yamaha V Max 540.
Mini Division – First place, Andrew Melgeorge, Superior, Wis., 2000 Polaris 120.
Cutter Class (Best Pull-Behind Sled) – First place, Jack Underwood, Moscow, Minn., 1973 Ski-Doo Oly Cutter.
Elmer Smith Award (Best Unrestored) – Bryce Degendorpher, 1971 Rupp 340 Sprint.
Best Dressed – Sharon Pelach, Orr.
Beast of the Show – Whitney Rolle, Apple Valley, 1963 rear-engine Trail Maker.
Beauty of the Show - Katie Ezell, Gilbert, 1964 Fox Trac.