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Snowmobilers race through county

BY Sarah smith One hundred and twenty snowmobilers whizzed through Hubbard County last weekend during the first ever U.S. X-Country Snowmobile Race in Park Rapids, an all-terrain event in the region. Make that first annual. “We’ll probably be back next year,” said USXC circuit owner Brian Nelson of Spicer, who said he was thrilled at the turnout. More than 100 volunteers acted as spotters at intersections, but Nelson said that could have been a wild guess and it could have been twice as many. The two-day event, called the Heartland 106, brought throngs of people to Hubbard County. On Sunday, County Road 4 resembled a gigantic tailgate party Sunday as motorists lined up to see the action, sharing Thermos jugs of hot coffee. The final leg of the race went 60 miles up and down County 4, weaving through Deer Lane, through Emmaville and around Alligator Alley, a swampy area south of Lake George. And thousands of trees, just for sport. Saturday’s race went through the Hubbard Prairie southeast of Park Rapids. Spotter Greg Stevenson said speeds easily exceeded 100 mph in the open areas of Hubbard County. He was directing traffic near Lake Peysenske Saturday. “You could hear them coming and the next minute they were gone,” said Stevenson, an Osage snowmobiling enthusiast himself. Sunday he was stationed at a prime spot – the intersection of County Roads 4 and 40, where motorists also gathered to see the action. Many riders careened through the course on one ski, defying gravity. Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes said only a couple minor crashed occurred. “Nothing bad,” he said as he and deputies directed traffic at the finish line on the Highway 34/County Road 4 intersection. Race sponsors used the site of the former Silver Star City as a staging ground. But there were four calls to his department concerning injured riders over the weekend. Park Rapids took on the air of a big-time circus, with snowmobile sponsors’ trailers lined up on the grounds. Teams of professional racers cut a bright sight in their colorful uniforms against the white snow. Perfect conditions, temperatures in the 20s, greeted the racers along with a recent 17-inch snowfall. Motorists didn’t seem to mind stopping for the traffic on 4 and 34. They were getting a heck of a show. Thirteen classes of sleds ran the course, over hill, over dale. Zach Herfindahl, a 17-year-old from Eagle River Wis., won Sunday’s Pro Open. The exhausted teen wiped his face and appeared physically shot. He did not win the race overall. “I broke down yesterday,” he said, surrounded by family and well-wishers. But he said he had a blast. “Zach is one of the most promising racers in the circuit,” Nelson said. Sleds resembled NASCAR vehicles, plastered with sponsorships. In fact, many spectators Sunday skipped a televised NASCAR race in favor of the live entertainment. There were no serious injuries, but a lot of stiff and sore riders from the grueling event. Cleanup began in earnest late Sunday afternoon, with teams of riders picking up signs, smoothing over driveways and touching up trails.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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