2017-02-16 / Front Page

Snowmobiles Will Take Center Stage at Naubinway Show

By Erich T. Doerr

Vehicles like this 1956 Tucker Sno-Cat Kitten will be the featured sleds in this year’s Top of the Lake Antique and Vintage Snowmobile Show Saturday, February 18. (Photograph courtesy of Marilyn Vallier) Vehicles like this 1956 Tucker Sno-Cat Kitten will be the featured sleds in this year’s Top of the Lake Antique and Vintage Snowmobile Show Saturday, February 18. (Photograph courtesy of Marilyn Vallier) The Top of the Lake Antique and Vintage Snowmobile Show and Ride in Naubinway will take place Friday, February 17, and Saturday, February 18. The ride for snowmobiles of all ages will take place Friday, leading into the downtown display of classic sleds Saturday. Admission to the show is free.

This year’s show marks the 25th anniversary of the event. Large tracked vehicles, the vehicles that served as the progenitor to the modern snowmobile, will be the featured sleds and will mark the opening of the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum’s new J.A. Bombardier Addition. Museum chair Charlie Vallier noted it’s been a pleasant surprise the show has lasted this long.

“Twenty-five years is a long time,” Mr. Vallier said. “This show has changed a lot over the years, adding a few things, but we’re still going strong today.”

The Naubinway show was started by Mr. Vallier and Tom King with the goal of creating a new event to bring people in to enjoy their community during the winter. The pair selected a classic snowmobile show because of their mutual appreciation of the sleds. The annual event proved popular, with its strong turnouts leading to the creation of the community’s permanent yeararound snowmobile museum.

The first show drew about 50 snowmobiles, with the event growing a lot in the following years. This weekend’s display is expected to attract between 180 and 200 snowmobiles. The show peaked out at about 220 sleds for a few years before the beginning of other snowmobile shows across the state cut its numbers down slightly. Naubinway’s show will be one of five snowmobile shows in Michigan Saturday. Strong attendance is still expected for this weekend’s show.

“We’re very happy with our turnout,” Mr. Vallier said, adding it is great to see how the hobby has grown.

The Top of the Lake Museum is always open alongside the show and this year will see the museum opening its new J.A. Bombardier Addition, named for the modern snowmobile’s inventor Joseph-Armand Bombardier. The new area will allow the museum to display many more sleds, including numerous models donated to it last year by J. Armand Bombardier Museum in Quebec when it changed its collection to focus on the various products made by Bombardier. The area opened last week with 15 sleds on display, with 25 expected to be in place for the show.

Many of the sleds on display at the museum include models from the 1960s and 1970s with the expansion allowing new space to add more models from the 1980s and 1990s. The sleds on display this weekend are expected to include an Arctic Cat King Cat on loan and several donated sleds from the Bombardier collection, including a Yamaha Sno-scoot, a Yamaha Vmax-4, an Arctic Cat Prowler, and a Polaris RXL, a model from the first year an electronic fuel ignition was available. The new area will be open, but it won’t be finished until after the show when its floors are polished and additional snowmobiles are installed for display. It will hold 50 snowmobiles when completed. Admission to the museum is $5, with a single admission covering the whole weekend tying in with the show.

The weekend’s festivities will be preceded for the second year in a row by a three-day snowmobile ride featuring early rear-engine models. The ride will run from Tuesday, February 14, through Thursday, February 16, and travel almost 100 miles from Naubinway to Curtis and Newberry before returning to its starting point. John McGuirk, the vice president of both the Antique Snowmobile Club of America and the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum Board, is organizing the ride.

Friday’s activities will begin with a breakfast at the Naubinway Pavilion from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. The ride will begin at 11 a.m. with the route travelling 13 miles from Naubinway to the Cranberry Lodge on the property of the Hiawatha Sportsman’s Club. Mr. Vallier is appreciative of the club letting them use the property for the ride; several of the group’s members will be taking part.

The ride will include both classic and modern snowmobiles. Those who ride modern sleds are advised in advance that the ride will be a slow one, befitting the vintage models, and that they may be needed to help tow sleds in the event of breakdowns. The ride is expected to include about 200 snowmobiles. Some fun awards based on the ride will be given out at Saturday’s banquet, such as the Tow Strap Award for a sled that breaks down.

The day’s activities will be followed by an evening of socializing at the museum and a night ride. Mr. Vallier said the route of the night ride would depend on snow conditions; if adequate snow is available, it will travel through Naubinway before heading to the pipeline bridge outside town. If there isn’t enough snow, the ride will stick to the trails and go straight to the bridge. Some participants in the journey will likely continue on to Engadine.

Saturday’s display will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with registration beginning at the museum at 9 a.m. It will take place throughout Naubinway’s downtown parking lots alongside US-2. The display is open only to classic snowmobiles, including all antique sleds from 1968 and earlier and the vintage sleds from 1969 and newer years. There will be food available for purchase and a free swap area. Admission is free for spectators.

One large tracked vehicle, a 1972 Tucker Sno-Cat, was dropped off in advance of the show Saturday, February 11, and is displayed outside the museum this week leading up to the show.

After the show there will be a banquet from 4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. in Engadine at the Garfield Township Hall, including a presentation on large tracked vehicles by Mr. McGuirk. A 50/50 raffle at the meal will raise money for the Top of the Lake Communities Association. An auction will raise money for the museum to pay off its expansion, with prizes including a 1973 Johnson Rampage snowmobile, a stay at a bed and breakfast, a snowmobilethemed rocker for children, a tour of the Soo Locks, a charcoal grill, or $50 in cash. The Top of the Lake Association will also be selling buttons throughout the day; if the buyer of one special button attends the banquet, they will win a casino package prize.

This weekend’s activities were originally scheduled to conclude Sunday, February 19, with a classic snowmobile crossing of the unofficial ice bridge on Lake Huron over to Mackinac Island. The bridge has not formed this winter, so the event has been cancelled.

There will be two snowmobile shows in the Eastern Upper Peninsula this weekend, with a smaller one planned in Cedarville at the community’s Snowsfest celebration. Mr. Vallier pointed out snowmobile trails connect both communities for spectators who want to attend each one.

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