RANGELEY — About 100 people attended the Blessing of the Sleds and Safety Vigil Friday night to show support for the families of three missing snowmobilers and to help the town heal.
"Our town, our people, Rangeley, has a broken heart, and we want to try to heal it," organizer Jean Stewart of Rangeley told the crowd gathered at the town park. "In doing so, we hope we can help heal these family members who are here today. We want to try to heal our broken hearts."
The mood was a mixture of sadness and empathy for those touched by recent tragedy. On Dec. 30, snowmobilers Glen Henderson, 43, of Sabattus, his cousin Kenneth Henderson, 40, of China, and their friend John Spencer, 41, of Litchfield disappeared on a ride from Carrabassett Valley and are believed to have gone through the ice on Rangeley Lake.
The Maine Warden Service was forced to call off a search of the lake due to weather conditions.
Huddled in frigid temperatures and holding glow sticks, attendees listened to Stevens and others express support for the families of the three men and to state officials urging caution.
"Slow down and ride safe" advised Sgt. Scott Thrasher of the Maine Warden Service. "Don't forget: You're a long way from a hospital, and it could be hours before help arrives."
Thirty snow machines were brought to Friday night's Blessing of the Sleds and Safety Vigil.
"We love having you come here to enjoy this great region and all the things we love about this area," Town Manager Tim Kane said. "Ride safe."
Stewart said she hoped other snowmobile events around the state might include similar vigils. She said she was overwhelmed by the generosity of the community and vendors who have donated to the event.
The ceremony concluded with a blessing of the 30 snowmobiles by the Rev. Jud Pealer of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. Participants formed a line from Pealer to each snowmobile. There was also a time of silent reflection and prayers for the lost snowmobilers and for the safety of this weekend's 36th annual Snodeo, which began Thursday night and ends Sunday.