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A snowmobile race scheduled for March 2-3 could bring between 500 and 1,000 people to Park Rapids. (Submitted photo)

Park Rapids to host USXC snowmobile race in March

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The Heartland 106 snowmobile race will be hosted in Park Rapids in March.

Brian Nelson, of Spicer, is bringing the United States X-Country Snowmobile Racing circuit to Park Rapids for a two-day race March 2 and 3.

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Park Rapids used to host snowmobile races but it has been many years since a large race has come to town. Local snowmobile enthusiasts Jeff Voigt and Jon Koch pushed to have a race in Park Rapids this year. They contacted Nelson directly and he was interested.

Nelson is a former cross-country snowmobile racer who won the Winnipeg-to-St. Paul I-500 in 1976 aboard Enduro Team Deere, and again in 1978 for Team Arctic. He has owned a snowmobile dealership and has operated a snowmobile and motorcycle tour business since 1980 and was inducted into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in 2000.

"This is a great town to do a race in," Nelson said of Park Rapids. "We have a much better time filling an event in a small town because they really appreciate hosting and putting on a great event."

Recent races in the circuit have been in Detroit Lakes and Willmar. This weekend is a race in Oslo.

The goal of USXC is to continue the tradition racer-friendly events at many of the classic cross-country venues.

Setting up and hosting the snowmobile race will be a lot of work. Organizers are looking for volunteers to help set up the track, be stationed along the track during the race and help with other various aspects of the race.

Koch and Nelson were recently snowmobiling around Park Rapids and working to establish a route for the race. The final routes haven't been determined but they are looking at a cross-country race and an ice race on Fish Hook Lake.

Snowmobiling has changed from decades ago. Snowmobilers now can reach speeds up to 110 mph, Nelson said.

In determining a course for the race, organizers need to look at having the safest route with the fewest hazards.

Organizers are expecting to need between 45 and 50 people to help with the race. People interested in volunteering are asked to call Jon Koch at 218-616-0448.

A raffle will be held on race weekend for a 2013 Arctic Cat 120 Christian Brothers-sponsored kids snowmobile. Tickets will be sold for $10.

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