This weekend I joined about 500-700 enthusiasts at the Country Cat Open House in Sauk Centre, Minn., to usher in the season.
Man, do I love an Open House, especially one that includes all the right ingredients: conversation, deals, movies, pork sandwiches, kids and plenty of seat time.
I knew from the moment I saw the parking lot at Country Cat that this would be a well-attended open house. No surprise though, as anyone who does business with these guys will attest to the quality that they put into everything they do.
It’s pretty cool to walk up to a dealership’s open house and see the door open (literally) with a bunch of Cat gear-clad kids hanging out.
Inside, the racks were well stocked with clothing, parts and accessories. People were walking around, arms full with oil, special deals and whatever else caught their eye.
And of course the parts counter was buzzing with activity, no doubt helped by the 15% discount being offered on most items during the day.
Country Cat is a huge dealership, with several display areas including this section dedicated to the team’s oval racing success. When you’re the only 4-time winner of the Eagle River World Championship, as P.J. Wanderscheid and the team have accomplished during their career, you gotta have a display commemorating the highlights.
Speaking of P.J., he was running around this day talking with enthusiasts and helping everything run smoothly. He paused long enough to let me snap a shot in an area of their parts/clothing inventory.
Seriously, I’ve never seen so much inventory in one location! They have aisles upon aisles just like this one, each stacked floor-to-ceiling with everything from the Arctic Cat arsenal. They’re FULLY committed to their goal of having the largest retail inventory of Arctic Cat product in the world.
P.J. was also kind enough to show the carbon fiber tunnel they built for this year’s Champ oval sled. I lifted this thing and it weighs about as much as a boot.
These guys are already ramping up their race effort for the upcoming season. P.J. is healthy and fired up.
Outside there were lots of new and pre-owned machines at screamin’ deals.
Back inside one of the other display areas, there were rows of brand-new sleds and ATVs.
I can’t count how many open houses I’ve been to in my 73 years of snowmobiling, but I know it’s A LOT. I’ve seen all manner events, from small mom-and-pop dealerships that have two sleds on display to full-blown festivals like this one at Country Cat.
And without question the image in my mind from every open house I’ve been to is that of someone sitting on a sled and dreaming. For some, the dream might be a fantasy at this point in their life, while for others it’s the last little “shove” that will result in a new sled going home on a trailer.
Either way, it’s an annual rite of autumn that feeds the excitement that builds within us.
I love that.
The other element that happens at every open house is conversation, whether it’s between fellow snowmobile club members talking about projects, friends laughing about past rides while making plans for upcoming adventures or any of the other many topics common to sledders.
The conversation in the above image between Arctic Cat collectors (L-to-R) Tom Ische, Brianna Ische, Wayne Kuster and Nancy Ische concerned the various horse-trading of vintage Cats. These two families have both bought/sold/traded each other sleds over the years and it sounded to me like another deal was being hatched.
There was a cool vintage component to the Country Cat Open house, with a display and show that included some wonderful machines like this 1976 Arctic Cat 440 Z proudly shown by collector Mike Mattson.
Mike is a guy who I’ve had email contact with for years, but whom I’d never met in person until yesterday. He’s a great guy with a huge passion for the sport.
The whole group who displayed gathered with VSCA president Mike Meagher for a photo. Best as I can tell, everyone earned a prize, with Nancy Ische taking top honors.
I know everyone appreciated all the sleds on display!
Meanwhile, back in the main show floor, the buzz of commerce mixing with the snowmobile movies showing on the screens produced a great soundtrack to the day.
As if the temperature and changing leaves on the trees outside weren’t apparent enough, the scene inside Country Cat was a powerful reminder of autumn and the beginning of another snowmobile season.
If your Arctic Cat dealer is having an open house, I hope you have the time to stop by to experience the awesome vibe of machines, people and anticipation.
Thanks for reading.