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2013 Snowmobile Hall of Fame Weekend


(2/19/2013)

This past weekend marked the 2013 Snowmobile Hall of Fame weekend in St. Germain, Wis. It was the 30th Anniversary of the SHOF which, in addition to awesome snow in the Wisconsin north woods and other factors, resulted in perhaps the largest-attended event of them all.

For sure there was a lot of interest in the four great men who would be inducted for 2013: Blair Morgan, Bob Bracey, Norman Ball and John Zeglin. I know that for the Arctic Cat and Ski-Doo faithful, seeing Morgan get inducted (and getting to ride with him in the Ride with the Champs) was a once-in-a-lifetime event they would not miss.

For me personally, the anticipation of riding with my friend and seeing him inducted was hard to contain. Like many, I'd been waiting for this event for a long time...longer than even the few months since it was announced that he would be inducted. I suppose I'd been waiting to see Blair ever since the last time I saw him, which was in September of 2008, just before his accident that ended his racing career.

The drive to St. Germain from where I live (near the Twin Cities) is one of my favorites because of the great geographical transformation that takes place from the farmland of central Wisconsin to the big woods that begins north of Wausau. Great, evocative town names like Rhinelander, Tomahawk, Minocqua and Sugar Camp dot the road signs, route and area.

This is snowmobile country, as evidenced by the fact that there were groups of riders everywhere. The combination of great snow and trails transforms these north woods.

 

 

SHOF

Arriving at the SHOF I was reminded of the 50th Derby exhibit inside. It seems like eons ago that I watched the 50th Derby, but it was only a month ago. Time flies when winter is so short...

 

Vintage Arctic Cats at the SHOF in St. Germain, Wis.

I arrived on Friday afternoon, after many of the riders who partake in the Poker Run had left the SHOF for the evening. It was cool to see the Brian Nelson Replica 1978 Arctic Cat Cross-Country el tigre in the parking area, its winner on hand and riding this awesome machine.

 

Tom White and Joe Rainville at the SHOF

It was also cool to see friends Tom White (L) and Joe Rainville who were cleaning up after the post-ride BBQ. Events like the SHOF are definitely about friendships. These past few years I've been particularly fond of the camaraderie of the John Deere group, who share a strong bond for the brand. Very cool group of guys.

FYI: Earlier in the day Joe had put his tongue on a flag pole, to which it had frozen. That's why he's sticking out his tongue in the photo.

 

Snowmobile Hall of Fame in St. Germain, Wis.

There's more to see inside the SHOF than can be absorbed in less than a few hours. Great sleds, of course, but also the inductee plaques, great film footage of classic races and memorabilia to ponder.

 

Arctic Cat Boss Cat III at the SHOF in St. Germain

Boss Cat III is on display and, had any of the Warning family been there this moment, I wouldn't be surprised to see them start it up.

 

Snowmobile Hall of Fame in St. Germain, Wis.

There's an abundance of Sno Pro sleds on display at the SHOF, and I never tire of looking at the craftsmanship and purposeful engineering that went into these great machines.

 

C.J. Ramstad wing of the SHOF

Likewise, I could stare at the photos on the wall of the C.J. Ramstad Memorial Library for hours. Taken by Ramstad and some of his colleagues, these images are in a class by themselves for historical context.

 

Jim Dimmerman at the Snowmobile Hall of Fame

Inside the SHOF I ran into 1984 Eagle River World Champion Jim Dimmerman, who was watching intently the film that captured the historic battle between Mike Trapp and Yvon Duhamel in the 1971 Derby, which many say was the all-time greatest race.

 

Inductee John Zeglin at the SHOF in St. Germain, Wis.

It was cool to see John Zeglin at the SHOF as well. As the man who orchestrates the Annual Waconia Ride-In vintage extravaganza, Zeglin well deserves his induction to the SHOF for 2013. He was so COMPLETELY jazzed that his plaque hung next to Blair Morgan!

When John gave his acceptance speech the next night, he did an awesome job, thanking all of the other people, clubs and volunteers who make the Waconia event happen.

I think it's cool and important that the SHOF recognizes the volunteer, club and association people each year, as they truly are the backbone of snowmobiling.

 

2013 Ride with the Champs

Saturday morning starts bright and early with the Ride with the Champs (RWTC) breakfast. The all-star cast of champs this year featured many greats, including Dimmerman, Stan Hayes, Doug Hayes, Bobby Donahue, Aaron Scheele, Craig Marchbank, Jim Grafft, Mike Campbell, Wayne Nicholsen, Jamie Anseeuw, Tucker Hibbert, Blair Morgan and others.

 

Raider snowmobile at the 2013 Ride with the Champs

After breakfast several different-length rides head off in various directions. I was absolutely pumped to see someone had a Raider sled this year, as the company founder, Bob Bracey, was being posthumously inducted.

 

2013 Ride with the Champs

I was also pumped to see one of the Larson boys ready to tackle the 170-mile Vintage Challenge on this Arctic Cat Puma. Unfortunately, none of the Larson crew finished the Challenge this year.

 

The Thomas Sno Sports gang at the Ride with the Champs

They crew from Thomas SnoSports was once again on hand with a batch of sweet sleds, including a Blair Morgan Edition ZR 600! (Later in the day, while riding with Blair Morgan, we passed this sled going the opposite direction. When it happened, I looked back at Blair and we both did a fist-pump, which was cool beyond words.)

 

Tucker Hibbert and Jim Dimmerman at the Ride with the Champs

Here Jim Dimmerman shows Tucker Hibbert the nuance of shoe-horning a Thundercat triple into an el Tigre chassis. I think Tucker is strongly considering racing this machine at the next snocross national.

 

Blair Morgan at the 2013 Ride with the Champs

The fact that Blair Morgan was riding in the RWTC was a huge, huge deal, and many grabbed a photo of themselves with Blair prior to the ride, which is EXACTLY what the RWTC is all about.

Seriously, if you ever wanted to meet and ride with some of the all-time great racers, this is a must-attend ride.

 

Tucker Hibbert and Blair Morgan at the 2013 Ride with the Champs

Before the ride started, Tucker and Blair were joking with each other and proclaiming that there would be some paint-trading during the ride. I thought it was pure joking, but I and everyone else in the group would soon learn otherwise!

Yep, for more than 60 miles of riding this day, Tucker and Blair were never more than 20-feet apart from each other (and often within inches of each other!). I can confirm that they were cutting each other off in corners, block-passing and generally harassing each other non-stop.

And those of us fortunate enough to watch the antics were having the times of our lives. Seriously, it was like watching them on the track for all those years... they showed the same respect while simultaneously looked for every advantage over the other rider. And it was an absolute joy to watch.

For the record, Blair rides a snowmobile faster than 99% of the rest of us, all in complete control.

 

Blair Morgan Race Team (and Tucker Hibbert)

After lunch many in the group posed for a photo with Blair, Tucker and Jamie, including the great friends in the Blair Morgan Racing Team.

Personally speaking, it was an honor to ride with these guys.

 

Autograph session at the 2013 SHOF

Later that evening it was time for the SHOF autograph session which, thanks to the all-star cast, was more crowded than I can remember it ever being in previous years.

So cool to see young kids handing their RWTC bibs to legends like Stan Hayes for an autograph!

 

Tucker Hibbert and Blair Morgan at the SHOF Induction

Every year at the banquet there's a silent auction that raises money for the SHOF. This year, Blair's former manager Jamie Anseeuw brought a couple extra items that were auctioned off live, including this Operation Inspiration helmet that was originally raced by Team Arctic's Cory Davis then bought by Anseeuw as part of a fundraiser for Blair following his accident in 2008.

Jamie donated the helmet for the SHOF live auction, at which Tucker Hibbert was the highest bidder as a fundraiser for the SHOF. So this one helmet has raised more than $1,000 twice for great causes.

 

Norman Ball III at the 2013 SHOF Induction

I particularly enjoy the acceptace speeches of those who are inducted, and this year I loved listening to grass dragger Norman Ball III talk about how he kinda-sorta lied to his wife about how much he was spending to go racing for so many years.

Ball epitomized the working-man racer who scraped together every resource in order to race, never winning much money but taking great satisfaction that he was competitive and enduring.

Thanks for the great career (and speech) Norman!

 

Blair Morgan at the 2013 SHOF Induction

Blair's speech was short and sweet, with him thanking his crew and sponsors and then basically saying that wasn't so sure about his deserving to be up there because "all I did was just kind of race and have fun."

I think I can speak for the entire world of snowmobile racing Blair: You deserve to be in the SHOF a thousand times over. You not only won everything there was to win in snocross, but you completely changed the sport of snowmobiling.

 

The 2013 SHOF Inductees

L-to-R: Norman Ball III, Blair Morgan, John Zeglin and Steve Landon (who accepted the award for Bob Bracey's widow, Carol).

Congratulations SHOF inductees for 2013. You all deserve your place among the greats.

 

Blair Morgan Race Team at the SHOF Induction

I'll end this post with a photo of crew, friends and colleagues of Blair Morgan Racing who, after the award ceremony was over, posed for some extra photos then just hung out for another hour or so, laughing and sharing stories about the great years they spent together.

Snowmobiling is a sport loaded with great people.

Some of them raced snowmobiles so crazy-fast that it made our heads spin with wonder and awe. Some of them spent hundreds (and thousands) of hours working on race sleds in shops while the rest of the world slept. Some dedicated their spare time to create an event that we could all participate in. Others spent years to create a network of trails. Some built sleds while others built bridges.

All of them shared a passion for excellence. Whether you were one of the few who have been recognized with a SHOF plaque or one of the vast majority who have gone without official recognition, your accomplishments have made this a better sport, and a better world.

Thank you all.

And thanks for reading.



Comments (17):

Don Amber says:
2/20/2013 5:53:00 PM

John, first and foremost it was great to see you again even if rumors of my being on a Snopro crew was false :-). I appreciated your handling of the induction ceremony, you did a great job and perhaps now have a "permanent" position. Looking forward to seeing you again next year and perhaps riding together. Best wishes,

DA
Eric says:
2/20/2013 7:27:00 PM

Blair If you read Arctic Insider I for sure am on John'a side in saying you most certainly belong in the SHOF. Best ever in my lifetime of watching snowmobile racing in all forms. I rank you right there with Brett Favre and Micahel Jordan! Great to hear that Blair would still smoke me on a sled! I wish him the best. Tucker also showed why he is the best being there to support Blair!
S.K.LEPINNET says:
2/20/2013 9:51:00 PM

John- I love story.. I alwalys gotta read and see your pictures when it's about Blair. This past weekend I came across the first Ski-Doo Blair Morgan ed. sled built. I am all cat all the way, but i still would like to have one of those some day just because it's apart of Morgan history.
RL says:
2/21/2013 11:33:00 AM

Very nice article. I would like to see a pic of the lower part of Blair Morgan's body on the sled to see hoe he stays on besides his great upper body strength. How cool it must have been to see Blair and Tucker trail race lol. John you should of been right behind them with your GoPro and gotten us some coverage of that. Any way sounds like it was a blast and I'm sorry I missed it. You go Jester. And keep up the good work.
doug says:
2/21/2013 12:47:00 PM

Blair is a great inspiration and ambassador to our sport, thanks for the memories Blair
Jesse says:
2/21/2013 3:27:00 PM

Thanks for sharing with those who were unable to attend this great event.
Keep up the great work John.
Paul Nadeau says:
2/21/2013 6:47:00 PM

Thanks for the great story and photo's John. Excellant as usual ! SHOF ride is on my bucket list for sure. Can a northern Mainer keep pace with you folks? LOL! Everyone on the list are top notch to be inducted this year!
Derek says:
2/21/2013 11:54:00 PM

I used to race snocross when the ECS was Rock Maple Racing and I remember watching Blair in one of the finals at the Vernon Downs National as I was in staging to go out for my race and coming out of a turn down the front straight my dad and I saw Blair reaching down and fiddling with something on the sled in what seemed an odd part of the track and neither my dad or I had a clue why he would be doing this. Come to find out they had jetted the sled too lean and Blair was choking the sled to richen it up so it didn't burn down during the race. I dont think he won the final but it was almost more impressive than a win knowing what he did to salvage results. I think the winner was TJ Gulla in what would be his first national win. After my family was done racing we went to see Blair and Karl Kuster, they were awesome and I can remember Arctic Cat had a model Blair Morgan edition toy race snowmobile that we had bought my dad for christmas and we got Blair to sign the seat just like on the real snowmobile that had his signature on it. This was one of my most prominent memories of Blair, absolutely an amazing guy.
Tom White says:
2/22/2013 1:36:00 AM

John,

Another great job capturing this historic event to share with the folks that couldn't be there.

Tragic about Rainville's tounge, I guess they aren't sure if or when he'll be able to speak again.
Steve Kurtenbach says:
2/22/2013 7:26:00 AM

John, another excellent story and write up! I watched Blair several times when he first started, he was superman! The impact he had on snowcross was immediate. then to watch young Tucker come up and challenge him was great to watch. Those two have defined the sport of snowcross.

Glad to see you mention the work that goes on to all the club members who build and maintain the trails and the bridges..those people are also the real heroes of our sport!
fastf5 says:
2/22/2013 8:42:00 AM

Great story, thanks for covering it! Blair, you will always be "THE MAN"!
Joe Rainville says:
2/24/2013 11:01:00 AM

John,
Great write up of another awesome Ride with the Champs weekend. The rides and autograph session were the best yet.

I am flattered you would even mention my name with such esteemed celeberties. That is the best pic you ever took of me, LOL! Sorry, but someone double dog dared me...

Joe Rainville
Alley Cat says:
2/28/2013 8:48:00 AM

Blair Morgan.....Thank you!
Babin says:
11/8/2013 2:11:00 AM

Beverly Culpepper - Love, love, love the venue. You are a terrific phphograoter and captured the true essence of this wedding. Great composition and natural looking poses.Hopefully, you are not booked-up and can be the phphograoter for our event.
Willjessy says:
11/14/2013 3:02:00 AM

Melissa Batts - Had the time of my life! Thank you so much for making it so much fun and tkaing the most beautiful pictures! Hope all is well and look forward to seeing you soon!!!! http://rxpewwk.com [url=http://skfhmnzbnhh.com]skfhmnzbnhh[/url] [link=http://mdmzeth.com]mdmzeth[/link]
Jass says:
11/17/2013 7:29:00 PM

I haven't had a chance to watch the whole thing or ainnhtyg, but from a quick glance, the audio and video seem better than some of the previous ones. I like that the camera is right up close this time. I can see and hear the speaker better. Nice! http://prwvxjlqxt.com [url=http://nrleongzim.com]nrleongzim[/url] [link=http://pstwdqbrbvc.com]pstwdqbrbvc[/link]
Leo says:
10/9/2015 1:28:00 AM

Hi babe,I chanced upon your wtbsiee when I was planning for my Tokyo trip in Feb '12. Now I am planning my wedding with Julia Wedding News. ISo coincidentally my coordinator is also Jess. Would you be able to share the price and inclusions of your package for TW?Many thanks in advance!

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