Fast sleds and fun times were found at Winter Fest on Lake Chetek on Saturday, Feb. 27.
“With good ice conditions and coming off an extended cold snap, we knew it would be a popular event, and the weather definitely cooperated for the spectators, too,” noted Darryl Dahl, president of the Chetek Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the event. “That made the track a bit soft and slower for the racers but the fans didn’t mind, and we had a record number of runs on the Fun Run track.”
Throughout the day, more than 150 racers signed up for the fun run radar track. On the pro side, more than 80 racers had signed up, noted National Straightline Snowmobile Racing, the organization that ran the races.
For Ron Bray, NSSR organizer, the perfect temperatures for racing were 25 to 29 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s where the machinery is not too frozen up, but the ice still provides good traction, he said.
NSSR posted race results on its Facebook page of the top three places for each class on the pro track and fun run track. Four-stroke machines fared better in the day’s warmer temps.
Ryan Ensor, who was again attempting to break his world record speed of 194 mph, which he set at Chetek last year, said the ice conditions were to his liking. However, his top speed, and top speed overall for the day, was just 181 mph on a four-cylinder, four-stroke machine in the top gun class.
Still, other world records were broken in other classes, according to NSSR results. Doyle Swift broke his 2020 record in the pro stock class–stock turbo, with a speed of 148.61 mph. Erick Fagerlin broke the record in four-stroke stock, with a speed of 99.11 mph, and Charlie Fleck broke the record in super stock twin with a speed of 123.01. Jeremy Suttliff broke the modstock 441–500 record with a speed of 84.60 mph. Each racer had a back-up speed within 2 percent to qualify for the record.
At the Bikini Run, held at 1 p.m., 12 racers competed for the top speed and the title of Winter Fest Queen, as designated by the contestant who raised the most pledge money. It was the first time there were no male racers, and therefore a king was not named.
In total, $10,300 was raised for Barron County Pink Ribbon Advocacy, said Bikini Run organizer and racer, Tasha Springer. BCPR supports breast cancer patients and survivors in Barron County.
Peggy Shilha was crowned Winter Fest Queen for raising more than $5,000. KNG Mechanical was a major sponsor of Shilha.
Barb Johnson and Leanne Rybacheck tied with a speed of 79 mph.
Lexi Isaacson and Megan Friedrich raced in a 1969 Johnson snowmobile in the Bikini Run. Isaacson’s finance, Joe Bauer, said the old sled (and sleigh) was found in a barn near St. Cloud, Minn. They bought it and fixed it up for the race. They had been to Winter Fest before, but it was their first time competing in the race. Isaacson drove while Friedrich rode in the sleigh.
Dahl wasn’t sure of the total number of spectators—it was hard to know for sure without a fully fenced off area—but attendance definitely exceeded expectations. Some unofficial estimates put attendance between 2,000–3,000 over the course of the day for the outdoor event.
“I want to say how much I appreciate the Winter Fest committee for all their hard work. We can’t say thank you enough for all the support Winter Fest received from volunteers, sponsors, attendees and the racers,” Dahl said.