Faces of Winter Fest

(Slideshow)Colder temps and snowless landscapes didn’t appear to stop people from participating in several Winter Fest activities last weekend in North Branch. Photos and story by Jon Tatting

The North Branch Area Chamber’s 12th annual event included the “Freeze Your Bunz” 5K Fun Run, which took place on Saturday morning, Feb. 12 on the Sunrise Prairie Trail. The event was hosted by the Viking Blue Line Club, while players from the North Branch boys hockey team showed their support by cheering and giving hi-five’s to the runners at the half-way point. They included Brandon Timm, Kaleb Larson, Brandon Kratzke, Cole Lee and Zach Fairbanks.

First place finisher Ed Hudella, of North Branch, beat the cold as well as all other competitors with a time of 18 minutes 36 seconds. Travis Bukosky of Princeton sped past Marshall Nelson of Isanti to claim second place at 21:09, as Nelson finished third with a time of 21:11.

Jake Bear of North Branch won the age 13 division with a time of 23:52. In the same category, Domonic Hufford earned second at 25.16 and Laura Dolezaler of Stacy finished in third at the 28 minute mark.

Among 16-year-olds, Brooke Thunstrom of Cambridge was first to cross the finish line at 27:28. Taking second place was Cameron Hufford with a time of 29.35.

Meanwhile, Central Park in North Branch is always a “hot spot” for Winter Fest activities. On Saturday, several children tried their luck in the “Family Fun” games event. Austin Johnson, 9, of Rush City, almost earned a strike in the turkey bowling game. In the bean bag toss, 9-year-old Jarah Johnson, of North Branch, was all bundled up in protection from the cold.

Later that afternoon, families could skate with Frosty and friends at the municipal skating rink. The rink was also busy with kids playing a pick-up game of hockey, with old wooden pallets laid upside down for the goals.

The Sno-Drifters and Sno-Barons snowmobile clubs didn’t let the lack of snow keep them from putting on their annual Vintage Snowmobile Expo on Feb. 11 at JJ’s Bowl and Lounge in North Branch. Another big crowd of sled enthusiasts marveled over the classic machines, which were on display atop a layering of snow that had been hauled in for the event.

North Branch Ambassador Meghan Wicklund awarded John Vierling, of Forest Lake, the Ambassador’s Choice trophy for his restored 1970 Mercury 250 E. Another winner was Jeff Kittleson, of Excelsior, who received the first place trophy in the 1969-71 Restored category for his 1971 mini Snowtamer.

Here is a list of all the winners from the 2012 Vintage Snowmobile Expo:

1968 & Older

Original – 1st, Tony Erickson, Elk River, ’68 Rupp Sno-Sport; 2nd, Ron Lemke, Hinckley, ’65 Huski

Restored – 1st, Joe Eisenschenk, ’67 Polaris Voyager; 2nd, Joe Eisenschenk, ’67 Polaris Colt


Original – 1st, Bill Freiberg, Hopkins, ’70 Mercury 250 E; 2nd, Loren Magnason, North Branch, ’70 Skiroul

Restored – 1st, Jeff Kittleson, Excelsior, ’71 Manhandler (mini); 2nd, John Vierling, Forest Lake, ’70 Mercury 250 E


Original – 1st, John Sampson, Hugo, ’72 Chaparral; 2nd, Mike Kraker, White Bear Lake, ’72 Johnson Rampage

Restored – 1st, Tom Schultz, Hopkins, ’73 Rupp Nitro; 2nd, Dave Schrunk, Oak Grove, ’73 Chaparral


Original – 1st, Kerry Bucroft, Stillwater, ’75 Ski Doo TNT; 2nd, Bill Jacobson, North Branch, ’74 John Deere 300

Restored – 1st, Jim Raymond, Centuria, Wis., ’74 Yamaha GPX 433; 2nd, Eric Wimer, New Prague, ’75 Mercury 440 SR


Original – 1st, Dick Tesch, North Branch, ’76 Ski Doo Elan; 2nd, Dave Schrunk, Oak Grove, ’77 Sno Jet

Restored – 1st, Dave Schrunk, Oak Grove, ’77 Sno Jet; 2nd, Tom Schultz, Hopkins, ’79 Arctic Cat

1974 & Older Race Sled

1st, Eugene Glenna, Shafer, ’73 Polaris Starfire; 2nd, Flynn Elder, Mound, ’73 Sno Jet Thunder Jet

1975-81 Race Sled

1st, Vern Simon, Balsalm Lake, Wis., ’76 Mercury Sno Twister (Sno-Pro); 2nd, Eugene Glenna, Shafer, ’79 Ski Doo Sno-Pro

Cutters and Sleighs

1st, Mike Kraker, White Bear Lake, ’70 Johnson; 2nd, John Vierling, Forest Lake, ’70 Mercury

Odd Creation

Kevin Gustafson, North Branch, Chaparral (Cookarral) Sleigh

Ambassador’s (Queen) Choice

John Vierling, Forest Lake, ’70 Mercury 250 E

People’s Choice

Leanne Gustafson, North Branch, ’74 Chaparral (Pink)

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