Family calls for boycott of Rangeley Snodeo

RANGELEY — Family and friends of three snowmobilers believed to have driven into open water on Rangeley Lake on Dec. 30 have called for a boycott of the annual Snodeo festival, saying it’s disrespectful for the event to be held before the snowmobilers’ bodies have been recovered.

Glen and Jackie Henderson, the son and wife of missing snowmobiler Glen Henderson, respectively, both posted Facebook messages early Friday asking people to boycott the event, angry that more hasn’t been done to recover Glen Henderson’s body.

Contacted by phone later in the day, Glen Henderson said he feels it's disrespectful to be on that part of the lake where his father and uncle, Kenneth Henderson, 40, of China and their friend John Spencer, 41, of Litchfield, remain. It's their loved ones’ resting place for now, he said.

The Maine Warden Service began searching the lake after getting a report early Dec. 31 that the men were missing, Maine Warden Service Cpl. John MacDonald said. As of Friday they had been unable to find the bodies due to weather and ice conditions, and all efforts to recover the bodies have been put on hold. Side scan sonar images on Jan. 3 indicated two — and possibly three — snowmobiles at the bottom of the lake where the three are believed to have gone in, MacDonald said, and the men are presumed dead.

The body of a fourth snowmobiler, Dawn Newell of Yarmouth, who also drove into open water on Rangeley Lake in a separate accident on Dec. 30, has been recovered.

Jackie Henderson expressed appreciation for the support the family has received from Rangeley residents and compassion for the business community that has seen losses due to the lake conditions and accident, and said she appreciates the efforts the Warden Service has made to recover the men's bodies.

"It's hard to watch them out there in 10-below weather," she said. "I tell people they can't understand how hard it is and how frustrated they are, too, without seeing it."

And, she said, the people of Rangeley “are really nice. They are the most kind. They fed us and gave us drink. It's a really hard situation. I feel badly for the businesses there."

Even so, Henderson is critical of the shared decision by the Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce, the Warden Service and the Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club to hold Snodeo before the bodies have been recovered, echoing her son’s Facebook post on the Sun Journal page that the decision to hold the festival was disrespectful to her husband and his friends.

Glen Henderson — the son of missing snowmobiler Glen Henderson — had posted that he thought it was wrong to hold the festival on top of what he considered to be the men’s graves, posting: “I have a plea and ask of you NOT to attend this event. You may ask why?? Don't you think it's too cold or the ice is unsafe?? Well that is what they are saying about recovering Glen, Spence and Ken. Three amazing men that should and need to be brought home. Feels to me the recovery isn't as important as their event they are planning ... These men need to be brought home.”

And, he posted, “How would you feel if your loved ones were in the lake while others party away on it. If I have ever seem (sic) disrespect this is it!!”

"The family would like to see a little more effort to pull out the men before Snodeo," posted Melissa Morgan, a friend of the Hendersons. "It would not be an issue if the bodies were not still there."

Organizers of the 25th annual festival decided Wednesday to go ahead with the event Jan. 24-26. Snodeo was conceived to provide a community event and boost the local economy in the least busy time of the winter, Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club Co-Chairwoman Mac Dudley said.

"We want them to do whatever they can to resolve the issue before Snodeo," Morgan said. "With all the resources and technology ... it's hard to fathom why they are not pulled out."

Morgan said she understood Rangeley is known for the winter festival and snowmobiling, and people do come from all over.

But, she said, "It's not the town or the snowmobile club … The guys are still in the water. If it's unsafe to pull them out, why have a party on it?"

Trish Hall, a cousin of two of the missing snowmobilers, posted on Facebook on Friday that she couldn't understand how Snodeo could be held, because it's disrespectful to the families.

Others urged people not to attend until the bodies are recovered.

"No Snodeo in Rangeley until Glen, Spence and Ken are home," Becky Ellis posted.

But Rangeley businesswoman Donna Perry, posting that she understood the families must deal with their loss, defended the decision to move forward with the annual festival.

“Bad-mouthing people of Rangeley after all of the support offered to the families while attempts of recovery were being done, is only developing sour and hurt feelings toward those being negative now. I would hope that you people could understand that it is not out of disrespect that Snodeo will take place, just that life for all the world has to go on," she posted.

On Friday, a number of complaints had been posted on the Facebook page of the Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce, the Sun Journal page and other pages, urging reconsideration of the decision to move forward with Snodeo.

Judy Morton, the chamber’s executive director, had no comment on the posts other than to note that most of the Snodeo events were held off the lake and that the local snowmobile club, not the chamber, was the event organizer.

The Warden Service, which indicated it would issue a press release on Snodeo, had not issued any statement by late Friday night.

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Dale  Farrar's picture

Let it go on

I do not want to appear insensitive or disrepectful and I do not think anyone will take it as such but these men were snowmobile enthusiasts and I would think if their voices could be heard, they would be wanting everyone enjoying the space, the lake and their friends and families.

John Ponte's picture

Sad ,Stuip and most of all Self Center .

Let's ,face it, there is people that just like to get there names in the news and they will ride on anyones coat talls.even if people they are riding on are dead .

No one would stop fishing because the bodys of a fisher man is missing in the waters .

So why would anyone think it is the right thing to do by stoping people going onto a lake once it has frozen over.Or more so ,stop a big Event that has become a traditional Event for so many?

When there is a death on a race track the race still goes on .

The Snodeo has and had nothing to do with the people that lost there lives last year in Rangeley lake .I wounder ?Where was there thinking any way to be out on a lake that is one of the last lakes in Maine to frezze over .

It a very sad deal all the way around ,

But for these people to think and to be O so vocal is worst than anything I have ever hear of .
No one is going to bring back the dead ,no matter how much anyone wants to .
The SHOW must go on for the living the day we stop doing events because of the dead ,we all will be dead!!!

Susan Byam's picture

What if

these bodies are never recovered? Does that mean that no one should ever use the lake again? It was a tragic accident, and I feel very bad for the families, but to cancel everything because they have not been recovered is crazy. This Snodeo is not going to cause harm to these men.
Your lives will never be the same, but the fact is, life goes on.

GARY SAVARD's picture

So, Life should stop because

So, Life should stop because three guys made a very foolish decision? There is no one to blame in this that is still around to bear the blame. The Snodeo should go on as planned, and the bodies of the three victims recovered as conditions permit. Before this facebook BS, I had sympathy for the families and friends of the victims. I still do, however, it's not the same.

Gary Lanza's picture


The wardens service does not decide if there is a snodeo! It's NOT held on Rangeley lake! The chamber of commerce does NOT decide if there is a snodeo! Snodeo Is controled by a committee I believe? No one can actually cancel snodeo! People make reservations for that weekend as far as a year in advance! They are coming! I believe this is being held on the NH ,Vermont, Maine reciprical weekend and Rangeley will be invaded with thousands of sleds regardless! We have no choice but to find things for these people coming here to do(events) or there will be major problems. The lake is never completely safe! There is a trail system which goes completely around Rangeley lake!!! No one HAS to go on it! ( EVER )!!! Nor do you need to be on a road! The warden service is doing all they can (as is) the town of Rangeley to safely recover these men! Our hearts go out to each and every family member of the missing men! We do NOT put money in front of lives in this town! Snodeo has nothing to do with the delayed recovery effort of these men! The recovery effort of these men has nothing to do with snodeo! Its just weather and ice thickness! they can search when there is NO ICE or when there is THICK ICE ! They Can't search safely on THIN ICE ! These men went into a very deep spot in the lake(100 + ft.) with strong current. We ALL should be thanking the warden service for the efforts they have put forth as well as ALL involved! They are putting theres lives on the line every time they go near that lake! We are all trying!!!

Gary Lanza's picture

snodeo boycott!

It's very important for all you people to understand #1 there has been no expence spared in the recovery efforts by the warden service! To think otherwise is insane! They have been using every available resource,boats, airboats,sonar 15-16 divers mobile command centers,airplanes and every warden within 100 plus miles ect! Rangeley fire, police,ems and our public works department have been giving absolute support from the start of this horrific tradgedy! The only issues that have held up the recovery effort are safety and weather period! Rangeley does not survive by snodeo! It brings in a little extra income for buisinesses 1 weekend a year! It's Not the be all end all! No one here puts money ahead of lives! A lot of us do what we do for nothing or next to nothing!I am NOT a club member! I do not much like the way this town operates at times and I despise most town officials! However,there is NO WAY anyone here is in any way going to stop,try to stop,or slow the recovery process for any reason let alone money!!! We are a small community here and when we have a tradgedy we all band together and do everything we can to help! What do you want us to do with the thousands of people who are going to flock to this town regaurdless of a snodeo or no snodeo? We are NOT insensitive to the families! I have not slept a nights sleep since the first emergency tone went off! I know at least 2 of these men from Oxford plains speedway. We were not close friends, however I can't help but feel an emptiness as well as a sence of loss, knowing we will never again pass by each other in the pits. There is only ONE event held on Rangeley lake. IF it is not safe for ANY reason, Im sure it will be cancelled or rescheduled as in the past! People need to stop looking for someone to blame! We are all hurting here! I can't imagine what this is like for the families, but you can't close a lake! Should we close the the town as well? Why? What will that accomplish? I (we) want these guys out of that lake and Don't for one second think the wardens don't as well! But, some things are beyond any of our control! I know the lake better than most! It's very deep (100 plus feet) where these men went in.The strong currents can cause all sorts of problems. Not to mention ice diving is very tricky in itself! Lets all try to stay positive.Let's say some prayers for these men,hope that no one else gets hurt and that the wardens can find them very soon! I assure you there is not one buisiness owner in this town who care about the money loss of a boycotted snodeo. We will take care of whoever comes here that weekend no matter what! Thats what we do!

Allisa Milliard's picture

let them have their snodeo.

let them have their snodeo. they'll be more people falling through the ice. money can't buy common sense when it comes to snowmobiles and ice (or lack there of).


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