RANGELEY — With a shaky start to the snowmobiling season, the Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club’s board of directors could only hope that this year’s event would go as planned in January.

Snodeo organizers are all volunteers, and the event can bring thousands of visitors and a much-needed economic boost to the region. Gas prices were low, the weather was perfect, and everyone was having a great time Saturday, said event organizer and club board member Jonny Wakefield. The downtown was packed with pedestrians and the first big race at the Stephen Bean Regional Airport was a huge success.

Tara Saxton, owner of the Rock Maple Racing franchise, organizes a race schedule around New England, and Wakefield said the snowmobile club wasn’t completely confident until nearly the end of 2015 that they could guarantee her good trails for the competitors. By Friday night, Wakefield said, the trails were looking great. The hard work was worth it, he said.

“We have had racers from all over Canada and from Pennsylvania, New York and New England,” he said. “By 10 a.m., we had about 500 people through the gates already.”

Trails had been groomed for the past seven days and nights by two especially dedicated members of the Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club.

“Without Mike Koob and Lee Libby, we could never have gotten this ready in time,” Wakefield said. “They’d go out at 4 a.m., stay out here all day and go home, get some sleep, and do it all again the next day.”

The Hight Family of Dealerships sponsored the event, and Wakefield said dozens of groups worked behind the scenes that made everything run smoothly. The local volunteer fire and rescue and police department personnel politely herded those who strayed into unsafe viewing areas back behind the lines of orange cones.

The youngest viewers were as enthusiastic as the adults watching the winter excitement. Herbie Davenport, 10, of Livermore came with his mother, brother and stepfather, Mike Colello, for the big weekend.

This was the first year, Davenport said, that he had his own snowmobile to ride. He was disappointed that the Radar Run competition had been canceled because of thin ice on Haley Pond. That is where the youngest snowmobilers have a chance to show how fast they can go, and he said he would plan to try again next year.

The family was waiting patiently for the Rave X trick jumpers to start their high-speed runs and aerial somersaults up a 30-foot snow mountain in the parking lot of event sponsor Boss Power Equipment. As the 2 p.m. start time neared, hundreds of spectators gathered for the show.

“We started eight years ago with a core group, and now we have riders who come from around the country just to be part of the tour,” said event coordinator Dave Carlberg. “We’ve become a real company with a merchandise line and people asking us for autographs.”

Carlberg said one of the crowd favorites at Snodeo is the daring Holy Man jump. The rider lets go of the snowmobile to float in midair, grabbing the handles of the sled as both start the fall back to Earth. Even though the crew practices each trick safely in a foam-covered arena, riders don’t need much time to learn to do it right, he said.

“One year, the rider who did the back flip couldn’t be there, but Kourtney Hungerford flew in from Montana and just decided to try it for the first time at the Snodeo show,” he said. “Some riders like Kourtney are just gifted naturals and are willing to push the limits.”

Local lodging and restaurants were bustling with visitors, and every parking lot throughout the town was filled to capacity. Travis Ferland, owner of the Rangeley Inn and Tavern, said this year’s Snodeo was one of the best-attended, despite lighter snow accumulation.


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