Franklin Countys First News

Snodeo revs up some winter fun this weekend

A Rave X rider in the midst of a flip before a big crowd at a past Snodeo held in Rangeley.

RANGELEY - The region's premier snowmobiling event kicks off Thursday, with a few, final inches of falling snow awaiting the treads of thousands of engines.

The 2017 Snodeo is expected to draw as many as 5,000 people to the Rangeley area. Local establishments are already booked solid according to Jonny Wakefield, chair of the Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club's event committee and one of the principle organizers. That's good economic news for an area that has seen precious little recently, as Saddleback Maine edges through a second year of non-operation.

"Snowmobiling has become the heartbeat of the area here," Wakefield said. "This community has been awesome, rallying around and supporting the club." Wakefield recommended that those attending any Snodeo event consider arriving 30 minutes or more before the event began.

Thursday's events include the Chili Chowder Cook-Off, sponsored by the Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce, at 5:30 p.m. at The Gingerbread House in Oquossoc. The RLSC will be hosting a Casino Night at Bald Mountain Camps at 7 p.m., featuring beverages, refreshments and time to mingle with fellow snowmobiler enthusiasts.

Registration for the Snodeo's biggest events, the Rock Maple Racing Cross-Country Race and the Pro-Vintage Championship, begins at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 20, and runs until 8 p.m. at the Steven Bean Municipal Airport. Pre-registration is recommended and available online at rockmapleracing.com and provintagechampionship.com.

A Welcome to Snodeo event will be held from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. at Moose Alley, with door prizes and 50/50 tickets. The RLSC Live Auction featuring Larry Koob will be held at Moose Alley at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. All proceeds go directly to the club's grooming operations, with Wakefield calling it the most important of the club's numerous fundraisers. The auction represented much as 30 percent of the club's fundraising, Wakefield said, helping cover the six-figure cost of grooming the club's trails. RLSC ran four groomers six days a week, he noted, with expenses adding up quickly.

Last year, the Live Auction was standing room only, Wakefield said, calling the show of support "phenomenal."

The race event begins at the airport on Saturday morning. The Rock Maple Cross-Country Race is a five-mile event and the Pro-Vintage is on a 1/3 mile track. Gates open at 6:30 a.m. for racers and 8 a.m. for the public. Tickets are $10 per person or $15 for the weekend, with children under the age of 10 admitted for free. There is no cost for parking.

Organizers are hoping to top the 1,000-snowmobiler mark this year, Wakefield said. Organizers expected approximately 350 last year and drew a surprising 850-plus, however, so the club will be ready for anything. As always, racers and spectators alike are asked to arrive early to ensure they don't miss the fun.

Other events on Saturday, Jan. 21, include the Radar Run at Haley Pond, with registration at 8 a.m. and the event itself running from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., hosted by the Harrison Friendly Riders. A family marshmallow roast will be held nearby at the Haley Pond gazebo from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., courtesy of Snow Source. The Gingerbread House will be hosting a gingerbread man making contest from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.

The Rave-X Show, hosted by Boss Power and featuring stunt riders and a gigantic snow jump, will be held in the Boss Power parking lot on Main Street at 2 p.m.

The snowmobile parade, featuring Monty the Moose, will begin lining up at Rangeley Inn at 5:30 p.m. The parade kicks off at 6 p.m., running from the inn to the Town & Lake Motel. Trophies will be awarded for "Overall Best Dressed Sled" and "Best Kids Dressed Sled."

Weather permitting, a fireworks display provided by the RLSC will cap off the weekend events, taking place at Lakeside Park following the parade.

Friday and Thursday will also feature demonstration rides by snowmobile manufacturers at participating dealers. Participating vendors include Bald Mountain Camps, Hight Ford & Chevy, Boss Power Equipment, Oquossoc Marine and Backwoods BMP. Dom's Auto on Main Street will be hosting MotoTrax demos.

There has been plentiful snow this season, unlike last winter's meager offering, although Wakefield noted that the recent stretch of rain had left some of the trails hard and icy in places. The club is hoping for a few inches of extra snow Wednesday, although snowmobilers are advised to take it easy around corners.

"Safety, safety, safety," Wakefield said. "This is one of the busiest snowmobile weekends in the state of Maine."

He estimated that 90 percent of Snodeo accidents were caused by excessive speed or recklessness. While the Maine Warden Service would have an active and visible presence at the event, Wakefield said, participants needed to be courteous and careful, given the large amount of traffic and new riders.

The Snodeo represented an excellent opportunity to support local clubs, Wakefield said. Riders did not need to be Rangeley-area residents to contribute or acquire a membership, he noted, and every little bit helped the local clubs make events like the Snodeo happen.

In addition to the auction and other events, the RLSC is also holding a raffle this year for a 2017 Ski-Doo Renegade Adrenaline 600 E-TEC from Boss Power Equipment, with other prizes including trailers, local shopping sprees and stays at local establishments. The club was selling 500 tickets to raise money for a groomer, with each ticket costing $100. More details about the raffle and the Snodeo can be found here.

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