Haydays: Snowmobiles in the heat
September 29, 2003
Filed under Features
Billed as the world’s largest snowmobile event, and the unofficial kick-off to the snowmobile season, the Sno-Barons annual Haydays Grass Drags, held in Columbus Township, Minn. on Sept. 6–7, survived its 38th year despite another bout with blazing hot temperatures.
Thermometers topped out at 91 degrees during the two-day affair, where snowmobile enthusiasts, manufacturers and retailers from throughout the country came to see, sell and swap product while racers competed in various classes on a 500-foot grass track.
Organizers say an extra attempt was made this year to cater to the various needs of attendees, needs that culminated in various changes to the entire 120-acre facility. The racer pits were positioned on one side of the track while the greater majority of space stayed reserved for retailers, swappers, the WSA Snocross Expo and expanded free parking with a shuttle service.
Attendance figures were not available at the time this edition of Powersports Business went to press, but interviews with attendees suggested similar traffic to the prior year, with most agreeing that Saturday crowds were better than Sunday’s.
Larry Koch, president of Tousley Motorsports and a member of the Sno-Barons Snowmobile Club, told Powersports Business he felt overall attendance may have been down. “The weather has been a major influence, but I don’t know whether it’s because this is the third year we’ve had this heat or because of the football game.” Nevertheless, he said organizers have discussed moving the event to a later date “by about a couple of weeks.”
The “football game” Koch eluded to was the season opener between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings, two teams representing neighboring states with large populations of snowmobile enthusiasts, sledders who usually make it a point to attend Haydays. The game took place at noon on Sept. 7, and was a reason many at Haydays gave for what was a reduced turnout in attendance on Sunday.
Still, manufacturers like Polaris, Yamaha, Arctic Cat, Ski-Doo and Fast were all there for the weekend, as were an additional 150 firms showcasing literally thousands of new parts, garments and accessories.
“All in all, this is a really great event, and we really like coming here,” said Rob Powers, Yamaha’s snowmobile marketing manager. “Attendance does seem down compared to past years, but the new layout is really good and keeps people on one side of the track instead of forcing them to walk in this heat.”
Yamaha was located in a prime position, beside the grandstand, facing the racetrack. Also enjoying a prime location, Polaris’ display was located near the main entrance to the facility, near the WSA Snocross Expo, which itself attracted throngs of people to watch high-flying snowmobile and dirt bike stunts.
“Overall, we thought that Saturday was an absolute zoo. People seemed excited about the upcoming season and the numbers (of visitors) were truly astounding,” said Ted Smokstad, Polaris marketing communications manager, snowmobiles. “As for Sunday, if you look at Haydays history, Sunday has always been slower.”
“It went really good for us,” said Matt Pfankuch of PowerMadd. “I did think the layout was better, and I liked the format. There was more space, and that may have changed the atmosphere somewhat.”
While Pfankuch says the PowerMadd booth tended to be busier than other exhibition areas, he said he didn’t notice the constant stream of customers that once earmarked the event. “I haven’t heard attendance numbers, but they had to have been down — even down from last year. And if I’m wrong, then they really need to do something better to get the traffic (of people) flowing,” he said.
One of the firms that reported a good amount of traffic throughout the weekend was Super Torquer Systems, Inc. of Grand Blanc, Mich. Another was Starting Line Products, Inc. of Idaho Falls, Idaho.
“We were pretty busy,” said Starting Line’s Jeremy Barnes. “Surprisingly, there was a lot of interest from the people who actually did attend, which seems strange with this weather.”