2016-11-10 / Front Page

Vintage Sled Rally Will Cross Bridge

By Stephanie Fortino

Snowmobiles will cross the Mackinac Bridge for the first time this winter during a new crossing event Saturday, December 17. “Snowmobile the Mighty Mac” is being held in conjunction with the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway and the St. Ignace Special Events Committee. The snowmobile parade, which will only be open to snowmobiles 25 years old or older, will help begin the winter season, said Charlie Vallier of the museum.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) unanimously approved the snowmobile crossing at its meeting Thursday, November 3.

The snowmobiles participating in Snowmobile the Mighty Mac must be outfitted with wheel kits to cross the bridge. The wheels will be at least two inches wide without studs and cleats. A truck and snowmobile trailer will follow along the parade to assist any disabled sleds.

Because of the short notice, Mr. Vallier expects a small turnout for the event, maybe 25 to 50 participants. He is hopeful that once word of the event spreads and more snowmobilers are able to purchase wheel kits, the crossing will grow.

MBA executive secretary Bob Sweeney worked with Mr. Vallier to choose a time for the event. Mr. Sweeney suggested December as a good time to host the crossing, rather than later in the winter, when there is less traffic crossing the bridge.

The Naubinway snowmobile museum partners with the St. Ignace Special Events Committee on other projects, as well, including the vintage snowmobile show that occurs following the Owosso Tractor Parts Show in St. Ignace in September. Janet Peterson of the committee said it has yet to finalize specifics of Snowmobile the Mighty Mac, although the event will follow the same format of many of the other bridge crossing events held throughout the year. The snowmobiles will be staged in the parking lot at Colonial Michilimackinac parking lot in Mackinaw City, get on the bridge at East Jamet Street, and cross to St. Ignace. The snowmobiles will likely park their vehicles in St. Ignace for a small show, which will be followed by a luncheon and awards ceremony.

Mr. Vallier will begin promoting the event at snowmobile shows, on snowmobile forums, and through the museum’s newsletter.

The MBA also approved rescheduling the Mighty Mac Swim from Labor Day to August to alleviate some stress on Labor Day, when thousands of runners and walkers cross the Mackinac Bridge.

The Mighty Mac Swim will be a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Michigan and money raised by the swimmers will purchase a home for a Michigan veteran or first responder and family. Other funds will be distributed to across the state to give smaller home improvement grants to veterans and first responders to install improvements like wheelchair access ramps or gutters.

The event will be almost a week long, rather than one day. Saturday, August 5, 2017, swim organizer Jim Dreyer will pull a barge across the Straits of Mackinac from Mackinaw City to the St. Ignace shore near the MBA office. Aboard the barge will be the materials and equipment to build a prefabricated Habitat for Humanity home, which the Mighty Mac swimmers will have purchased through fundraising.

The following week, the framing of the house will be built on the lawn at Bridge View Park. It will be disassembled after the event and taken to the permanent build site, which has yet to be determined. Volunteers will be encouraged to help build the house.

In the swim Saturday, August 12, swimmers will leave the beach at Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City and will swim across the Straits of Mackinac to Bridge View Park, where the house will be standing.

The Mighty Mac Swim began in 2007 when former Governor Jennifer Granholm appointed Mr. Dreyer to organize it. During that first swim, he lead 50 people across the Straits of Mackinac and raised money for the governor’s Mentor Michigan program. The swim was revived in 2015 because of popular demand, Mr. Dreyer said. The World Open Water Swimming Series and the Global Swim Series sanction the swim, and it is designated as the Michigan Open Water Championship. The swim is also noted for its high levels of safety precautions, according to Mr. Dreyer. In the event of an emergency, he said, there are enough following vessels to evacuate all the swimmers from the water at the same time.

During its first two years, the Mighty Mac Swim raised $630,349.

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