It’s October, which means shorter days, cooler nights, Halloween and Open House time at Arctic Cat dealerships.
This past weekend, I and 500 or so similar-minded enthusiasts attended the Open House celebration at Country Cat in Sauk Center, Minn., where the tradition of anticipation unfolded in all its greatness.
For as long as I can remember, the Open House has ushered in autumn and relatively short lead up to snowmobiling season. It a day for kicking skis, trying on new gear, talking with our favorite dealership personnel and blipping the throttle on our favorite time of year.
For dealerships, it’s a time to display all the newest products, incentivize early-season purchases and invite their customers into the excitement of snowmobiling and ATVing.
For Country Cat, this year’s Open House introduced their new, expanded 8,000-sq.-ft. showroom (the front portion of a 19,000-sq.-ft. building) that was completed in August.
It’s by far the largest Arctic Cat-only showroom that I’ve ever seen, and truly a sight to behold.
I can’t speak for the hundreds of people who attended the event, but for me personally, the massive show floor with fully-stocked inventory of gear put me deeper into snowmobile-mode.
Seeing every single Arctic Cat T-shirt on display put me into the mood to buy some stuff.
I’m not sure what mood the kid on the left was feeling?
There wasn’t an official count from Saturday’s event, but there were more than 400 plates of food served! Normally I would have been responsible for consuming 7 of those myself, but not this day. Too many things to see, too many people to talk with.
There’s a special energy at a dealership whenever an event is taking place and people are present. I remember feeling it when I was a young teen attending my first-ever open house, and again this past Saturday.
Kids piled into the new Arctic Cat Wildcat Sport suggests that the tradition of excitement has passed along to generations of the future.
In addition to the new gear, I saw all kinds of customer service on display last Saturday, including discussions about the ease of calibrating FOX FLOAT shocks, as well as new vent kits for ProCross/ProClimb machines.
Country Cat and the Wanderscheid family invited all their guests to wander wherever they pleased. Literally.
A table of door prizes was pretty tempting. Confession time: I filled out more than half of the forms in the drawing bucket.
It was big, emotional week for the Wanderscheids. Dick Wanderscheid passed away just eight days prior, with the funeral held on Thursday, just two days prior to the open house.
This nice photo collage of Dick’s life was on display at the dealership. There were many conversations that day about Dick, and lots of loving laughter about mannerisms and personality.
The Open House was also an occasion for a vintage snowmobile display. A handful of collectors brought some very sweet machines.
Les Pinz brought his perfect Sand Cat. I came a cat’s whisker away from getting him to fire-up the Sand Cat and let me take it for a spin!
It seems that wherever a vintage show occurs in Minnesota, Jack Speckel is there with a few from his amazing collection.
I met Rod Schultz for the first time at Country Cat. Schultz is from Detroit Lakes, Minn., and owns a number of sweet Cats, including the 1977 440 Z (left) and ’77 Cross-Country Cat.
Schultz even started the Z, creating wonderful wafts of snowmobile perfume.
When snowmobile perfume hits the air, Scott Eilertson arrives moments later. This longtime Arctic Cat racer/jumper/salesman/rep even has a phone app that tracks every vintage Arctic Cat snowmobile engine that’s started up. Or maybe he’s developing the app?
Either way, Scott was at Country Cat telling stories and laughing in his usual way.
Some of my favorite conversations of the day occurred in this group, which included L-to-R: Schultz, Wayne Burkel, Rick Mattson, Mike Mattson, Mike Meagher and Bob Pallansch.
We shared racing stories, talked about the I-500 in great detail and pretty much reveled in the great sport of snowmobiling. Conversations like these help usher in our favorite season of the year.
This was the first time I’d met Wayne Burkel, who had been a factory Polaris and Arctic Cat racer in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Here’s Wayne holding an old issue of Race & Rally magazine featuring his photo aboard a twin-engine Arctic Cat speed run machine at West Yellowstone.
After talking sleds with the group of vintage buffs, I did one quick last-lap through the Country Cat compound. In back, Jeff Haider drove all the way from Minot, North Dakota, to buy a new M9000 Sno Pro. After years of owning orange Cats, this is his first green one!
As the mad rush of people slowed for a moment, I grabbed this shot of the Wanderscheid boys (L-to-R): Dave, P.J. and Mark. With the help of their family and employees, these guys have built an amazing business of modern expansion anchored in old-fashioned values of great customer service and involvement.
Just before leaving, I nabbed this shot of two kids mesmerized by the allure of a new Arctic Cat snowmobile.
Most of us reading this know EXACTLY what these kids are thinking and feeling. We have been (and will continue to be) kids captured by the magic of adventure machines.
Thanks to all the dealerships who host open houses that feed this crazy passion.
And thanks for reading.