MEXICO — Riders instead of snowmobiles were blessed Saturday in a break from tradition at the 17th annual Blessing of the Sleds.
The fundraising event was hosted by the Poodunck Snowmobile Club and the Mexico Trailblazers Snowmobile Club. It began at 10:30 a.m. with a cookout.
Then, just after noon, a lower-than-usual turnout of snowmobile riders drove up one at a time to a wooden archway topped with two crosses at Mountain Valley Middle School.
On one side of the arch stood Pastor David Willhoite of the Apostolic Church of Rumford, and on the other, Jon Holmes, president of the Poodunck Snowmobile Club.
Holmes held a donation bucket and thanked riders for coming, while Willhoite, dressed in black, waved his hand and said a few words to keep the riders safe.
Some riders on the 15 to 20 snowmobiles brought helmeted children or grandchildren to be blessed.
In the past, a Catholic priest would apply a drop or two of holy water to the sled while blessing it.
Willhoite said that because he is Pentecostal and not Catholic, he doesn’t use holy water.
“Primarily, I bless them to keep them safe,” Willhoite said. “I know it’s called ‘The Blessing of the Sleds,’ but in my thinking, it’s just a sled, you know. It’s them that I want to return healthy, so that was what I did.”
“Exactly right,” Holmes said.
He said the turnout wasn’t that good because several other activities were ongoing and a funeral service was being held for a Rumford native who died Feb. 1 of injuries from a snowmobile accident in Dixfield. The priest they normally use led the funeral service Saturday morning.
“There was a lot of people that are snowmobilers that attended that, obviously, because there was a snowmobiler’s death,” Holmes said.
And in Rangeley on Saturday, sledders were trying to set a world record for having the most snowmobilers participating in a ride.Proceeds from that event went to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Northern New England.
Additionally, snowmobile clubs in Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls held their second annual Livermore Falls Sled-In fundraiser at the Livermore Falls Recreation Field.
“So, you put it all together and we were lucky to get what we did, I guess,” Holmes said. “But it’s always fun to see all the snowmobilers come. We enjoy doing it and hopefully, it will get bigger and better.”
Last year, the weather forced a venue change. A big snowstorm hit that day and the clubs moved it from the school to the Mexico groomer garage.
“This time here, there was just too many other events going on to make a big showing for us, but we’re happy,” Holmes said. “We did well.”