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Grass Drags preview 9-19 (done)

Snowmobiling season gets early start

Grass drag event features sleds racing out-of-season

By Donny Henn

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

A big snowstorm at the end of last winter salvaged some of the snowmobiling season for riders in southeast Minnesota.

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But was it enough to whet the appetites of snowmobilers for the coming season, or did enthusiam for the sport melt away with all those snow-free months?

"Last year the weather ended on a high note with that snowstorm at the end," said Jim Miesbauer of the Byron Snow Bears snowmobile club.

"Hopefully that was enough to get people excited again about this winter."

Miesbauer and his club are banking that’s the case.

The Byron Snow Bears will get a gauge on local interest in snowmobiling when the club presents the 13th annual Great Southern Grass Drag Nationals this weekend near Douglas.

Professional grass drag racers from across the Upper Midwest, as well many local amateurs, will compete in side-by-side drag-racing-style competition on a 500-foot straightaway.

Some of the sleds are modified a great deal to race on grass, while other divisions feature normal factory sleds.

The two-day event has consistently drawn around 3,000 spectators, according to Miesbauer. Last year it drew 3,300, and the highest was 5,000 in 2001 or 2002.

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Organizers just hope it doesn’t rain like it did in 2005, when the fundraiser finished in the red financially for the only time.

Proceeds from the race fund the grooming and maintainance of the expansive snowmobile trail system surrounding Rochester. The Byron club is responsible for about 40 miles of trails which intersect with other trails in southeast Minnesota.

Miesbauer noted that a number of other local snowmobile clubs help out with volunteer manpower at this event, including clubs in Stewartville, Kasson and Zumbro Valley. About 200 volunteers are utilized, he noted.

Miesbauer is hopeful that the 13th annual Great Southern Grass Drag Nationals will be a success. The weather forecast is promising, and two weeks ago, the big Hay Days grass drag races at Blaine drew huge crowds, Miesbauer noted.

Miesbauer said that the vintage sled races, featuring sleds at least 25 years old, are gaining in participation and popularity.

A new twist this year is the addition of ATV (all-terrain vehicle) races on Sunday afternoon, on the same track as the snowmobile races.

"We wanted to try a little diversification," Miesbauer explained. "The people who ride snowmobiles, a good bunch of them also ride ATVs. We think there will be common interest there."

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