By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN Want to see some colorful pieces of Minnesota history?
Slide on over to the Blue Note Saturday, Dec. 8 for the fifth annual Winsted Winter Festival vintage snowmobile show and swap meet.
The show’s been growing by about 30 percent every year. It’s a lot of fun,” said Greg Davidson, who organizes it with Rick Menden.
The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with snowmobile unloading and swap setup at 9:30 a.m. Dash plaques will be given to the first 50 participants to register in the Pine Room at the Blue Note that morning.
Participation and attendance is free. Throughout the show, people are welcome to warm up inside the Blue Note while watching videos about vintage snowmobiles.
At 2:30 p.m., first-, second-, and third-place plaques will be awarded for restored and un-restored snowmobiles in the following categories: race, mini, 1974 and newer, vintage (1969-1973), antique (1968 and older), survivor (all years), and custom.
“We also have a grand marshal’s choice award,” Davidson said, adding that this year’s grand marshals are Jack and Petie Littfin.
With very valuable snowmobiles, some owners do not ride them at all, and the motors are never started. Instead, the sleds are carefully positioned with dollies.
“Some of them are way too rare and way too expensive to run,” Davidson said.
“Our biggest fear is snow. Doesn’t that sound ironic?” he added, explaining that the parking lot would have to be plowed before the snowmobiles are set in place.
According to Davidson, the show is not just for snowmobile enthusiasts, and would appeal to anyone with an interest in history.
“We really want the kids and the general public to see what we’ve got,” he said.
Davidson said it’s not known who invented the snowmobile, but different machines designed to go over snow date back to the late 1800s.
“The big explosion of popularity for the modern snowmobile took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with close to 200 manufacturers supplying the recreational snowmobile market,” he noted. “It seemed like anyone who could get an engine and manufacture a chassis to put it on was trying to cash in on this quickly growing sport.”
Companies that typically made tractors, outboard motors, residential power equipment, and motorcycles all jumped on board.
“Even retailers like JC Penney, Montgomery Ward, and Sears sold snowmobiles with their name on it,” Davidson said.
Today, only four manufacturers remain, including two Minnesota-based companies: Arctic Cat, headquartered in Plymouth; and Polaris Industries, headquartered in Medina. The other two manufacturers are Yamaha Motor Corporation, headquartered in California; and BRP (maker of Ski-doo), headquartered in Quebec.
Collecting antique and vintage snowmobiles has become a popular hobby, and clubs for this purpose have become commonplace.
“Some collectors try to preserve them as they are, while others try to restore them to showroom condition,” Davidson said.
The free snowmobile show is just one of many activities taking place at the Winsted Winter Festival Saturday, Dec. 8, such as a Christmas tree lighting, hay wagon rides, a visit from Santa, a lighted Christmas parade, and much more. Details will be published in the Monday, Dec. 3 issue of the Herald Journal.