Thousands turn out for Snodeo festival in Rangeley

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RANGELEY — The temperature was low but spirits were high Saturday as thousands gathered to celebrate Snodeo 2013.

From the Town and Lake Motel to the Moose Alley restaurant on Main Street, snowmobilers were everywhere, whether they were refueling at the Loony Bin Variety Store or seeing who had the fastest snowmobile while competing in the Radar Run on Russell Cove.

Many were pleased with the family-oriented programs offered at Snodeo headquarters, which were in the field to the right of the Town and Lake Motel. Resident Harold Schaetzle said that in previous years, there were only one or two family-themed events in the Snodeo.

“This year, they’ve done a great job of finding more things for families to do together,” Schaetzle said, pointing out the new family canoe sleigh ride, which consisted of a snowmobile pulling a family around the headquarters in a canoe.

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“Lee Holman is doing all the pulling,” Schaetzle said. “He told me he thought he’d be standing around all afternoon, but he just came up to me and said, ‘I haven’t had a second to stop.’”

Among the other new family-themed programs was the Treasure Scramble, an event thought up by residents Julie and Mike Ferguson, who also run the Rev It Up Sports Shop.  According to Leslie Packard, who was overseeing the event, the children would dig through a large pile of sawdust to find hidden trinkets donated by local businesses and residents.

“One of the trinkets has a number on it that coincides with a grand prize,” Packard said. “Whoever finds the toy with the number wins that prize. Plus, any toys that the kids find, they’re allowed to keep, so everybody wins.”

There was also a new family marshmallow roasting pit near the center of the Snodeo headquarters where families could gather to warm their hands and feet, or roast a few marshmallows. The idea for the pit was thought up by Greg Andrews, owner of the SnowSource general store.

“I thought we could use a nice area to warm up, especially with the cold weather,” Andrews said. 

While families warmed up near the fire, others tested some of Andrews’ merchandise from his store, including the kicksleds, which people could stand on and push with their feet.

“The kicksleds are something that originated in Sweden,” Andrews said. “It’s even a sport over there, but over here, we just use it for casual recreation.”

Andrews noted that a majority of the events and programs at the Snodeo were done “on a volunteer basis.”

“This is a highly philanthropic town, and the Snodeo is the lifeblood of the community,” Andrews said.

Many festival-goers came from out of state, including George and Kate Renski of Massachusetts and their two Newfoundland dogs, Smokey and Star.

“We have a place up here in Rangeley,” George Renski said. He added that the Rangeley Snowmobile Club wanted him to bring his orange-and-white 1978 remodeled Bombi tractor, which is used to groom ski and snowmobile trails.

“I remodeled the whole thing myself,” Renski said. “It didn’t even look the same when I started it. I also built the drag behind it myself.”

Kate Renski said that while she and her husband don’t snowmobile much anymore, they used to all the time.

“Way back when, we snowmobiled up around the Gaspé peninsula in Quebec and back down again,” she said. “It was a 1,900-mile drive.”

The Rave-X Freestyle Show drew the most attention as hundreds of people crowded into the area between Moose Alley and the Loony Bin Variety Store to watch the team perform stunts off a massive jump constructed by Belanger’s Welding and Fabrication of New Gloucester. 

Before the show began, team spokesman Dave Carlberg held a moment of silence for the three men, Glen Henderson of Sabattus, Kenneth Henderson of China and John Spencer of Litchfield, who have been missing since Dec. 30. The men are believed to have driven their snowmobiles into open water on Rangeley Lake.

“It’s time we pay some serious respect to some fallen snowmobilers,” Carlberg said as the crowd fell silent.

As the evening drew to a close, Snodeo chairwoman Aimee Danforth said this year’s festival “went great and donated a whole lot to the trails.”

She added, “We started planning for this Snodeo the day after last year’s Snodeo ended. We wanted to bring it back to the Snodeo that we used to have in the past, with all sorts of activities for the family.”

mdaigle@sunjournal.com

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