Cool Day For Vintage Snowmobiles

Terry O'Keefe, Watertown Public Opinion

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June 4, Milbank, SD - The calendar may have said June 1, but with temperatures in the upper 40s and a brisk north wind, it wasn't hard to imagine the steady drizzle turning into snow showers, making the classic snowmobiles on display fit right in.

The old original machines, echoing the beginning of the craze in the 1960s of fun in the face of winter, challenging snow drifts and ice-cold winds for pleasure, withstood the cold and rain that fell the weekend of May 31 and June 1 during the Antique and Vintage Snowmobile Show.

Sponsored by the Whetstone Valley Snowmobile Club, the 18th annual two-day gathering at Lake Farley Park in Milbank attracts enthusiasts and collectors from around the Upper Midwest and beyond.

"This show has a history of rain," organizer Derrick Loeschke said. "People know that when they say, `Bring your gear,' they mean it. We still did all right, but we were down from previous years and had about 50 who registered for the show. We typically see closer to eighty."

Saturday morning, the old sleds lined the walking path through the park, some given cover under canopies while others sat out in the open or the back of enclosed trailers. Their owners, too, mainly huddled inside the empty trailers as they gathered in small groups, sipping hot coffee and swapping stories of the glory days and memorable rides of their vintage machines.

Some were offered for sale and some of those at the show also brought a variety of parts and related equipment for sale.

"This is the 18th year, and there were a couple of the guys there that are pretty sure they've been to every one," Loeschke said. "People like to come to our show because of the park setting-they can just sit in their lawn chairs and visit. But not this year."

Over the years, there has been a large variety of snowmobiles displayed at the show, from racers that took part in the legendary Winnipeg to St. Paul races to those that were early designs for just put-putting around the yard.

A 1965 Ski-Doo Bombadier was the oldest sled on hand this year, nudging out a 1966 Arctic Cat, Loeschke said, adding that many of the people involved came from quite a distance and many surrounding states.

"There was one guy from there from Idaho who did not officially register for the show, so the longest distance went to a guy who came from Winnipeg," Loeschke said.

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