I truly can’t think of a more perfect way to celebrate fifty years of Arctic Cat passion than what I just experience during the past few days in Thief River Falls.
Arctic Cat, TRF and Mother Nature threw down the welcome mat, and people came from all over the U.S. and Canada, from Sweden and Norway. There were individuals who came for the day, families who came for the week and everything in-between.
Collectors brought sleds… hundreds of them. And memorabilia, minibikes, WetBikes, bicycles, ATVs, Bug-O-Vacs, pictures, Scorpions, signs, posters and Arcticwear spanning fifty years.
There were red sleds, white sleds, purple sleds and of course LOTS of black ones. There were race sleds, trail sleds, prototypes and more. Some of the most historic machines in Arctic Cat history were on display.
There were factory tours, ATV tours of town, a Wildcat unveiling and the greasy goodness of fair food to season the days, while bands, beer and banter flowed during the evenings.
An on-site company store offered all kinds of 50th stuff for those who wanted to buy, while a swap meet offered the chance for anyone to sell.
Yet while indeed it was the machines that delivered the “Wows” and triggered memories for the thousands on-hand, the Arctic Cat 50th Anniversary wasn’t about sleds or gear.
It was about people.
It was about Arctic Cat people coming to TRF to reunite with each other. For some, it was a chance to see old friends, perhaps from a Cat’s Pride Tour, a long-ago race circuit or an antique or vintage club. For others it was a chance to meet a famous racer who’d captured their imagination sometime over the years.
For the people who work at Arctic Cat, it was a phenomenal opportunity to meet the outstanding customers who make their jobs possible, and see first-hand exactly how deep the passion runs.
There wasn’t one visitor who I talked with that expressed anything other than joy about the entire event. Likewise, every single Arctic Cat employee I talked with was humbled by the outpouring of people and passion that characterized the weekend.
Truly, everyone I saw had a smile on their face.
From those smiling faces flowed stories and conversations that spanned fifty years. I heard countless tales that further reinforced my belief that Arctic Cat people are the most dedicated in the world.
-A guy from Canada brought a brake lever that had fallen off of Jim Dimmerman’s Sno Pro race sled when he crashed into the wall – 30 years ago! – and finally got it autographed.
-Upon seeing the reproduction Boss Cat I, Roger Janssen told a crowd the story of its very first run, literally scorching the grass strip he ran it down.
-Collector Henry Briscoe, whose battled cancer for many years, refused to let his health deter his intention to attend. He couldn’t bring his sleds, but he wouldn’t miss this weekend.
-Glen Hetherington, upon seeing his picture in the book “50 Years of the Cat,” literally broke into tears.
-People – probably hundreds of them – unabashedly wiping the tears from their face as they watched Roger Skime tell the story of fall of Arctic Enterprise in the outstanding video, “50 Years of Arctic Cat” that played throughout the weekend in the Huck Olson auditorium.
Everyone I talked with had a story to share. I only wish the event could have lasted another week so that I could have had enough conversations to feel satisfied. Indeed, I drove out of TRF on Sunday feeling gutted that the weekend had to end, and that I had to go to my “other” home.
There will be more photos and stories to share in the coming days, but for now I want to thank everyone who made the Arctic Cat 50th the ultimate reunion. I’m supremely grateful to part of this magnificent family.
Kerry Zerbes not only made the trek from Ontario, but he also has an Arctic Cat tattoo on his arm. That’s hardcore. (Thanks for the update on your name, Kerry. Sorry the first version of this story didn’t contain it.)
Saturday morning in the swap meet, I ran into Eric Bergstrom (purple) and Tom Rowland (black jacket), finding goodies for their fleet of vintage Cats. (Note to Eric and Tom: Remember the 48-hour rule when it comes to working on your WOBLE sleds!)
Montana pipes on a ’73 Arctic Cat El Tigre? Hmmm…
Two other guys I ran into many times on Saturday were Team Arctic legends Brian Sturgeon (l) and Aaron Scheele. Right before I snapped this shot, I asked them to point to whoever was the fastest.
Sturgeon was also seen sitting on his old race sled throughout the weekend, wearing his old leathers.
Near the Sturgeon display was another collection of stuff from a famous Team Arctic racer, Chester Boman. Chester himself was on-hand during the weekend, looking fit and capable of shredding the vintage class in the upcoming I-500. How about it, Chester?
Joey Hallstrom (l) and Team Arctic legend Brian Nelson pose with their first and second-place finishing 1979 Arctic Cat El Tigre Cross-Country sleds from last year’s USCC vintage I-500. On the right is the 1978 modern-replica that Nelson built as a fundraiser raffle for the Snowmobile Hall of Fame.
Charlie Lofton’s children, Charlene and Chad, put together a display of some famous items from Charlie’s racing days.
Two more legends: Team Arctic Cross-Country stalwart Doug Oster (r) and Scott Schuster, one of the truly great behind-the-scenes people who helps make USCC races possible, organizes the vintage display at the 50th, helps with a snowmobile club and does a million other things to improve the sport. These two guys are awesome. Right before I shot this pic, I told them to point to whoever has the most grey hair.
Not that Crookston isn’t a great snowmobile town with lots of history (including hometown of Dale Cormican), but the “Snowmobile Capital of the World?” I’m going to consult with West Yellowstone and Eagle River to learn the truth.
Pure beauty on so many different levels.
Speaking of pure beauty, the famous Cat Girl was reprised for the 50th, making for a very enthusiastic male crowd at the Arcticwear fashion show.
The historical fashion show was an AWESOME piece of the 50th, with hundreds of unique and rare items modeled by dozens of Arctic Cat personnel, racers and even Roger Skime. I see Team Arctic’s Cody Thomsen in this shot, along with Dean Lawrenz.
Dave Guenther snapped this shot of some “red” Arctic Cats in front of what was the original Polar/Arctic Cat factory in TRF. Cool!
Speaking of “original,” check out the original Boss Cat trailer, restored from “the dead” by Tom Ische (r) with the loving support of his wife Nancy and daughter Brianna.
Lots of vintage amazingness to see at the 50th, including this prototype IFS sled of Tom Rowland’s that might have become a 1983 model had Arctic Enterprises stayed in the game.
I keep posting photos of Boss Cat I, II and III because it was a huge highlight for me and thousands of others. Every once in awhile Brad Warning would fire-up Boss Cat II, and the sweet sound of a Chevy V8 would echo through the auditorium, followed by applause.
Kirk Hibbert told the story of being taking by his dad to West Yellowstone in 1972, and seeing the Boss Cat. Just a kid at the time, Kirk sat and stared at for more than an hour, with the same awe that struck thousands of other kids who saw these miraculous machines.
Thanks to Brad Warning (r) and the Warning family, at the 50th Hibbert (seated) got a chance to sit both Boss Cat II and III. Better still, he got to meet Paul Groth (l) who owned and raced Boss Cat II during the NSSR speed run era.
Brad Warning was graciously allowing many people to sit in Boss Cat II until this numbskull wearing a 1971 Arctic Cat dealer show vest (thanks Krogstad!) showed up and slapped an ArcticInsider decal on the windshield. The security guards promptly removed him.
Arctic Cat racer, engineer and chassis/suspension guru Tubby Lund was all smiles when he saw the ArcticInsider dork get hauled away in cuffs.
People kept commenting how there were no mosquitos flying around TRF during the 50th. The reason: this sweet Bug-O-Vac was doing its job quite nicely.
Sucking in their guts and inflating their chests, this is one motley crew that has some big history at Arctic Cat. On the left is Craig Kennedy, an ATV/Prowler/Wildcat engineer who just recently left the company for family reasons. Next to him is Jim Creagan and Chris Fallon, the nucleus of the Bi-Polar racing team that won the 2008 Baja 1000 aboard an Arctic Cat Prowler XTZ. On the right is Darren Holter, an Arctic Cat engineer who helped with the winning effort. Lots of talk going on between these guys about a 2013 Baja effort with the new Wildcat.
Four-time Eagle River World’s Champion P.J. Wanderscheid was a popular figure at the 50th. He and the Country Cat crew had a cool diplay with his Championship winning sleds and trophies.
This 2012 Arctic Cat F1100 is a still-open raffle item for the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in St. Germain, Wis. It was signed by all the Team Arctic racers in attendance at the 50th.
Some names I see: Larry Coltom, Jim Dimmerman, Brian Sturgeon, Roger Janssen, Karl Christian, Chester Boman, Jim Safranski, Paul Dick, etc…
Team Arctic terrain racing legend Jeremy Fyle was all smiles as he signed the machine. Fyle was there with his longtime teammate, Dan Skallet. Great to see these guys.
There were so many highlights of the weekend, I couldn’t name a favorite. But certainly some of the most emotional moments took place during the Team Arctic autograph get-together on Saturday afternoon.
Hundreds of racers and fans shared stories, signed autographs (and posters, shirts, memorabilia, etc…), shook hands and relived some glory moments of history. Above, Jim Dimmerman signs “his” page of the “50 Years of the Cat” book.
It’s a good thing the legend, Larry Coltom, is a hardcore fisherman. He needed the extra arm endurance for all the autograph-signing during the event.
In all seriousness, Coltom still looks like he could kick-butt in any form of snowmobile competition. Great to see you again, Larry!
It was also awesome to see Team Arctic terrain racer Jamie Anseeuw. Jamie made a HUGE mark for Team Arctic as a cross-country racer in the 1990s, then again as the Canadian Team Manager for Blair Morgan, Carl Kuster and Earl Reimer.
In this photo, a 7-time Irondog champ is standing next to his 2-time ISOC snocross champ daughter, while the son of a multi-time MRP snocross champ shoots their photo.
From left: Scott Davis, Carly Davis and Ian Scheele.
After a quick vest-change, the weirdo from ArcticInsider was back to causing trouble, this time with 1969 World Champ Roger Janssen. (Note to Stephen Knox: wait until you see the autographs I got for your book!)
I wonder what Jeremy Fyle (background, left) saw that popped his sunglasses on his forehead?
Tucker Hibbert signed lots of posters, books and cans of Monster during the weekend.
The most in-demand signature at the event was Roger Skime.
I’ve seen Roger happy and enthusiastic a thousand different times over the years, but I’ve never seen him so amped as he was this weekend.
I’m so happy that people were able to express to him their appreciation for all that he’s done for Arctic Cat, and that he could tell them how priveleged he feels to have had an amazing lifetime/career at Arctic Cat.
Many of the Team Arctic racers gathered for an impromptu photograph on Saturday. Can you imagine the number of victories represpented by this group? Or the amount of hours they’ve spent preparing sleds? Or the thousands of miles they’ve driven to races all over the world? Or the number of kids who have watched them in wondrous awe?
I’ll tell you this: I know the majority of people in this shot, and I can tell you that every single one of them was humbled and appreciative of all the attention they received over the weekend. They are great people, and it was an honor to shoot this photo.
How fitting is it that Anniversary Edition F1100s were on the assembly line during the 50th?!? I can’t wait to ride one.
I’ll end this post with a photo that makes me supremely happy.
I see this image, and I see two kids who (hopefully) will have a lifetime of snowmobiling memories together. Who will dream, experience and share adventures of places unknown to them now, but that will be forever imprinted in their middle-aged memories.
Perhaps one will race, or maybe crew for someone who competes. One might work at a dealership, or even at Arctic Cat.
One might work multiple part-time jobs to save enough money to buy their dream machine. One might someday restore an example of their favorite machine from youth.
Maybe they will spend their Christmas breaks on snowmobile trips with their family? Maybe their Thanksgiving weekends will be spent at Spirit Mountain in Duluth?
But no matter what paths these two take, I like to believe they’ll take them on Arctic Cats. And if they do, they’ll share a passion that spans generations.
And perhaps 50 years from today, they’ll be reliving the joy and happiness they experienced at the Arctic Cat 100th Anniversary.