Grizzled old-timers like myself remember with great fondness a series of classic Arctic Cat advertisements in the mid-1980s that evoked the spirit of snowmobiling in a way that very few ads did before or since.
These folksy, experience-driven ads were more about the feelings and emotions of snowmobiling than they were the nuts and bolts of the actual snowmobiles. And for that reason they struck a chord with snowmobilers.
“How to Empty a Watering Hole” was one such classic. By touching on authentic themes that most snowmobilers related to (the undeniable attraction of a new sled; the trailside bar/pitstop; snowmobile brand comparison; the social aspect of snowmobiling), the Watering Hole ad captured our attention and held it, thanks to great visual details throughout the ad.
The Watering Hole ad turned 30 years old this winter. And to commemorate the anniversary, last month many of the people featured in the original ad gathered at the original location at the Wheel Inn on the outskirts of Hayward, Wis., to recreate the moment.
The event (and yes, event is the correct word) was organized by Laura Bredemus and Brian Clifford, both of whom grew up in Hayward and were featured in the original ad (Laura, who was 16 at when the original photo was taken on Jan. 13, 1985, is the person whose head is just above the right-front wheel well of the pickup truck).
These two hatched plan last fall. A Facebook page was created, posters were printed, snowmobile clubs were contacted, a committee was formed and monthly meetings took place at the Wheel Inn to prepare for the occasion.
“Everyone had great ideas for the event,” said Laura during a recent phone interview. “We located the truck that was used in the original photo, although it had since been painted red. We got the kid who wore the Hayward Hockey jacket to participate, with the original jacket. We arranged for food, tents and a bonfire pit. We wanted it to be a celebration of the past 30 years.
The group hoped to get enough people to simply recreate the photo. But like most good idea, the word spread and party overflowed.
“We had 300 people show up,” she said!
With Laura standing on a 12-foot ladder, the group gathered to shoot a series of photos that replicated the original image.
One set-up included a 1986 El Tigre that was donated for the day by collector Dan Larson, then cleaned up and made pretty by the Northwest Relic Rider Vintage Snowmobile Club (these guys also provided the other vintage sleds in the photo).
Another set-up involved a new 2015 Arctic Cat ZR, with a whole bunch more people.
With Laura directing and shooting photos and 10 of the original cast members participating, the moments were captured for both posterity and charity.
“We’re selling posters of the photos to raise money for the American Cancer Society,” said Laura.
There are a couple great reasons for this endeavor. The first is that Diane Bachman, owner of the Wheel Inn, lost her husband to cancer last summer. The Bachmans bought the Wheel Inn days before the original Watering Hole photo shoot, so it was an anniversary for them as well.
The second is that Laura’s dad lost his life to cancer 20 years ago. He was one of the founders of the Sawyer County Snowmobile Alliance, provided the two Ski-Doo snowmobiles and also appeared himself in the original Watering Hole ad.
If you’re interested buying one (or both) of the 24 x 36-in. posters, contact Laura via HERE at Facebook or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $40, which includes shipping and all proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.
Thanks for reading.