NORWAY — About 500 people turned out on a cold but sunny day to watch snowmobiles race across Lake Pennesseewassee at speeds of more than 100 mph.
Snowfest draws thousands of snowmobile enthusiasts and observers each year to the lake beside Route 118 for drag racing and radar runs. The event is organized by the Norway Trackers Snowmobile Club. Proceeds pay for maintenance and grooming of about 50 miles of trails.
The ice was more than 12 inches thick by Saturday, creating perfect conditions for the two tracks that were lain out across the lake earlier in the week, Norway Trackers President Diane Gammon said.
Gammon said attendance was “quite slow” compared to other years. She suggested that the Snodeo festival in Rangeley might have attracted some who would have come to Norway. Snodeo held its event on the same weekend as the Snowfest, which organizers usually try to avoid.
But not all were attracted to the north.
Paul Vigue of Clinton came south to Snowfest with his vintage sleds for the third or fourth year in a row, saying he prefers the Norway event. Clark Logan of Wells drove to Norway to attend the event with his vintage 1980 Yamaha sled.
Saturday’s event was drag racing, in which two snowmobiles race against each other at speeds of up to 110 mph on a 660-foot-long track.
Sunday’s event, the radar races, are expected to draw more competitors who race against a timer, Gammon said. She said a few competitors were expected to arrive with turbo engines in their snowmobiles, which allows them to reach speeds as high as 150 mph.
This year there is a class for vintage sleds: stock and modified. Stock sleds will run on the snow track only and modified sleds will run on the ice track only.
A good crowd stood along the fence and alongside Route 118 watching the event, including Garrett Pendexter, 10, of Norway. The Rowe Elementary School student said he likes to ride his snowmobile but did not want to race it someday.
“I don’t have a fast snowmobile,” he said.
Gammon said she expected an even bigger crowd Sunday, despite the bitterly cold weather.
“It’s cold. It’s January. It’s Maine,” she said.
Admission is free and hot food is available on-site.