There will be plenty of snow for some great riding and snow-related activities at this year's Snodeo in Rangeley. The highlight of the festival is the fireworks display that is held over the lake at 6 p.m. Saturday.
"It really is something spectacular to see. They always use fireworks that have good winter colors like silver and gold and they are beautiful when reflected on the snow," said Steve Dudley, president of the Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club. "Snowmobilers also form a big circle out on the lake during the fireworks."
Snodeo has gone through some growing pains since it was first held in 1982. At that time, Maine's snowmobile trail system was in its infancy and the sport was rapidly growing.
Craig Sargent of Rangeley, a salesman at his father's Ski-doo dealership in town, was thinking about ways to attract snowmobilers to the area to help the local economy and to promote the sport, and came up with the idea as well as the name.
Sargent with other local organizers had envisioned some type of rodeo to be held on the snow. He visited snow carnivals in the Northeast and Canada, such as Old Forge, and Lake George in New York and Quebec City – taking the best he saw and bringing those ideas to Rangeley.
The biggest hurdle back then was the lack of hotel rooms – only about 100 or so. However, local people opened up their camps to visitors and people were encouraged to find lodging in towns as far away as Stratton, Farmington and Eustis.
While it can be tough to find an available room during Snodeo, there are many more hotels and lodges today, compared to 1982. The event has expanded and includes activities for everyone to take part in – not just snowmobilers – such as the Chili-Chowder Cook-off, Casino Night, Helicopter Rides, Turkey Bowling and special activities for children including the opportunity to make gingerbread men. Many of the displays and activities take place at the Clubhouse Restaurant, the headquarters for Snodeo.
"Everything is very accessible from Main Street and people can just stand on the sidewalk and watch the fireworks or take part in other events," said Dudley.
The snowmobile parade takes place at 5:30 p.m. on Main Street, right before the fireworks. There are, of course, many snowmobile-oriented events such as radar and poker runs, and snowmobile demonstrations put on by local dealers.
The very first Snodeo in 1982 almost didn't take place because of a lack of snow on the ground, although the lakes were frozen. It seems Snodeo was meant to be because only three days before the event, there was a substantial snowfall and it went on as planned. The event has been canceled in the past a few times, but this year there has been plenty of snow and cold weather. Gov. Joseph Brennan attended the first Snodeo as did many corporate sponsors including snowmobile manufacturers, snowplow companies, beverage distributors, snow groomer manufacturers, car dealerships and other businesses.
During Snodeo it is estimated that more than 4,000 snowmobilers come to the Rangeley area, which is typically very busy because of the plethora of well-groomed trails that take you across some of the most beautiful places in Maine.
"It brings a lot of business to the area, helping the gas stations, inns, shops and restaurants. It really helps the local economy. We hold Snodeo in late January because it is a great start to the busy winter season and the town is full of people," said Evelyn McAllister, the executive director of the Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce. "The volunteers work so hard. Without them, we wouldn't have Snodeo."
Once you've been to Snodeo and have seen the Rangeley Lakes Area in all its winter glory, you'll want to make it a yearly pilgrimage.
For a list of Snodeo events visit www.Rangeleysnowmobile.com/.
For more information about upcoming snowmobiling events and an itinerary form (click the link for MSA members) visit the Maine Snowmobile Association Web site at: www.mesnow.com/.
Cathy Genthner is a Registered Maine Guide and licensed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to guide snowmobile trips. She is the owner of River Bluff Camps in Medford, located off of ITS-83. Genthner can be reached at: