Lake ice conditions on Lake Chetek have been improving and organizers of Chetek’s annual Winter Fest event are hopeful that a full day of races can be held on the lake next week on Saturday, Feb. 22.
Winter Fest organizer Rob Licht said they’ve found 18 to 20 inches of ice in most places, the minimum they need to have National Straightline Snowmobile Racing runs at the City Beach.
“It’s been a hard winter but the ice has come around the last three or four weeks,” Licht said. NSSR has been hampered by poor ice conditions and just had their first race in Brainerd, Minn., on Saturday, Feb. 8.
Chetek Chamber event organizer Jennifer Blatz was hopeful that cold nights would add more ice on the lake. But Licht said if lake ice conditions deteriorated, there is a backup plan and an alternate location on land.
“We’ll hold the everything at Pokegama Lakeside Tavern & Grill, starting at 12 p.m. with the Bikini Run at 1 p.m.,” Licht said. There would also be games and other activities added at Pokegama Lakeside.
But for now, Licht was optimistic the original, full event would go as planned.
New this year is the Kids Pro Ice Racing, sanctioned by the International Snowmobile Racing Inc. Kids ages 4 to 14 who are registered with ISR can compete in heats on a circle track on Feb. 22. They will race Kiddy Cats all the way up to 120 sleds and modified sleds, Licht said.
Those interested in racing in the Kids Pro Ice Racing event should contact Licht at 715-551-4035 for more info about rules and equipment. If there is enough interest, a non-sanctioned fun-run race may be organized.
Winter Fest officially kicks off with the warmup party at Red’s on Friday, Feb. 21, from 6–9 p.m.
There will be raffles, door prizes, apparel for sale, music and more.
Winter Fest gates open at 8 a.m. on Feb. 22. Entry is $5 per adult, $1 per child ages 6–12 and those 5 and under enter for free.
NSSR will start the ice track runs at 10 a.m. The Fun Run takes place all day. Racers must register at the NSSR trailer on race day. Those who want to do NSSR sanctioned races can find more race information at www.racenssr.com.
Midwest Dental will have Kids’ Activities on the ice from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Concessions will be sold and there will also be music on the ice.
At 1 p.m. is the Winter Fest Bikini Run, where racers—wearing swimwear—will compete for the fastest time. They also compete to raise the most pledge money to benefit Pink Ribbon Advocacy of Barron County.
Pledge money should be turned in on at the warmup party at Red’s on Feb. 21, or by 11 a.m. at Winter Fest on Feb. 22. So far 11 people had signed up for the Bikini Run as of Tuesday, Feb. 11, Licht said. They hoped to beat the $5,725 raised last year.
Bikini Run signup forms can be found at www.chetekwinterfest.org. Contact Bikini Run organizer Tasha Springer at 715-764-2184 for more information.
After the day’s races, the trophies will be given out at the awards banquet at Pokegama Lakeside at 6 p.m. The Winter Fest Raffle will also be drawn at this time (top prize: $1,500). Everyone is invited to attend the banquet. To eat pizza and wings, the cost is $12.
Licht noted that volunteers are needed to set up the event on Friday morning, Feb. 21, and to tear down after 4 p.m. on Feb. 22. Other volunteers are needed the day of the event as well. To sign up to volunteer for Winter Fest, visit www.chetekwinterfest.org.