Clicking on the Web: Sno Barons celebrate 46 years

By Howard Lestrud, ECM Online Managing Editor 

Wipe that sweat off your brow and replace it with dreams of snow sickles hitting your face while out on a snowmobile ride.

Many snowmobile enthusiasts will do a little dreaming when they visit the Sno Barons Snowmobile Club’s annual Hay Days event in Almelund, Sept. 8-9.

The Sno Barons call the Hay Days snowmobile drag races the official start of winter.

Bookmark the Sno Barons website at http://www.snobarons.com/

I have attended many of the Hay Days drag events over the past 20 years, all but the last two years being held on property in Columbus near Lino Lakes.

The race site moved to land near Almelund two years ago.  My attendance at the snowmobile event has been because of my involvement in the Lions International organization.

The Forest Lake Lions Club, of which I am a member, started a relationship with the Sno Barons about 20 years ago, the foot work on the Lions part being done by two hard-working Lions, Rich Jabas and Dick LaMere.

The partnership was started with the Lions offering to do concessions. Twenty years ago, the Lions were one of few vendors at the Hay Days site. The vendor total over the years has grown increasingly fast.

The Lions work force consists of Lions themselves and many other organizations including Boy Scouts, Girl  Scouts, Venture Scouts, soccer players, drum group, church group, Lakes Youth Service Bureau, etc.

The Hay Days event doesn’t just showcase fast snowmobiles, it also includes a swap meet and an expo. Twice daily motor sport athletes on  ATVs, snowmobiles and dirt bikes defy gravity with acrobatics, backflips and superman jumps.

Last year the Moore brothers treated the Sunday crowd to a tandem rider snowmobile backflip. This year, in addition to the wild stunts being performed, there will be a special TerraCross ATV race. Be sure to check out the Expo.

Let’s take a look at some history associated with the Sno Barons and the Hay Days event.

Read the following on Sno Barons history from the Sno Barons website:

Back in 1966 there weren’t a lot of snowmobile clubs. The sport was much different than it is today and many people were breaking new ground.

It seems like any company with the capacity to manufacture anything, was turning their attention toward snowmobiles to get a piece of this new action.

As with everything, only the strongest companies would survive this fledgling industry.

The same could be said of snowmobile clubs. Many have come and gone over the past 45 years that the Sno Barons have been around.

This year the Sno-Barons celebrate 46 years as a club. To make it successfully that long, a club needs a common purpose. For the Sno Barons, that purpose is unquestionably the HAYDAYS GRASS DRAGS. This event has grown year by year and is now recognized, as the largest event of its kind in North America. How did it all start?

According our most senior members, there were seven guys who shared such a common interest, snowmobiling.

They were: Dale Ilgin (1st president), John Gorman, Dave Pegor, Louie and Jolene Wilhelm, Bill Porter, Lloyd Stanchfield and Frank Swensrude.

These guys rode together often. One evening in July of 1966 they all met at the Crooked Lake Tavern. They thought it would be a good idea to start a snowmobile club. In September of that year a membership drive started. In no time, the membership had swelled to 150 people and had a waiting list.

As you can imagine, the list of suggested names for the newly founded group was endless. The first approved name was Crooked Lake Sno-Barons. The name later was changed to Anoka Sno-Barons.

The next evolution was to Anoka County Sno-Barons. Today the club is known as simply The Sno-Barons Snowmobile Club. The roots are still primarily in Anoka County as always, but the membership is from all over the Minneapolis metro area.

Now about the Grass Drags! How did it all start? The first race was in November of 1967. It was held at the Golden T which today is known as Majestic Oaks Golf Club. Back then, the entire event took place in a single afternoon, and it was known as the “Hay Day” race.

Through the years, the race has been held at many different locations as the result of land development during the 1970s. As an example, the race has been at Nelson Farms in Blaine, Minnesota. Then came a site in Blaine near Rapid Sport Center on Hwy 65. It was then known as Wyatt Brothers Sports. Another move was forced by development, this time to Columbus, Minnesota.

In 2010 growth of the race and development around us again forced Haydays to move. This time the move was to their own land in Sunrise Township in Chisago County. This is the current site of HAYDAYS, about seven miles East of North Branch.

In the early years, the race was held in October and Early November. It only drew local racers. October and November are very unpredictable for snow here in Minnesota and so alfalfa hay was used to build the race surface – and that’s how the name “Hay Day” originated.

The Haydays Grass Drags generates the money used by the club for a wide variety of things. As an example, a few years ago the Sno Barons began the Sno Barons Grant Program.

Financial assistance is granted to other snowmobile organizations/clubs for such things as bridge construction and warming houses on their trails. Scholarships have been awarded to a student of Anoka Ramsey Junior College where the Sno Barons have been a major contributor.

The Sno Barons have made generous contributions to many charitable interests such as Make a Wish Foundation, Sheriff’s Boys Ranch, The Food Shelf, local police, fire department and community groups along with many others.

The Sno Barons also put a great deal of money back into the sport. The Sno Barons support and sponsor other racing events throughout the area. The Sno Barons feel the responsibility to return money derived from snowmobilers, back to snowmobilers.

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