Classic sleds highlight Lakeview Winterfest

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 10:08 am on Monday, February 24, 2014

The snowmobile first gained popularity in the 1950s. Sleds from the past 50 years were on display Saturday at the Winterfest snowmobile show in Lakeview. — Daily News/Mike Taylor

LAKEVIEW — Nature took its toll on this year’s Winterfest in Lakeview, held Saturday. Many planned events were canceled because, ironically, of both warm weather and cold.

The snowmobile races slated for Saturday morning had to be postponed for a week because warmer weather earlier in the week had left several inches of standing water on Tamarack Lake, where the races are held. Then came another bout of sub-freezing temperatures which crated a thin layer of ice over that water.

According to Art Hersey, who helped organize both the race and accompanying snowmobile swap meet and show, the odd weather combination created what was basically a “honeycomb” effect. The ice was simply not safe for snowmobiles at that point.

“All it would take would be for one sled to go around a corner and crack through that first layer of ice,” Hersey said. “Somebody could get killed.”

Though snowmobile races were canceled for this year’s Winterfest in Lakeview, held Saturday, a snowmobile swap and show brought in about 60 classic sleds, some dating back to the 1950s. — Daily News/Mike Taylor

Though some of the racers — particularly those who made the trip to Lakeview from other states — were no doubt disappointed by the cancellation of races, the sled show in part made up for it.

According to Hersey, snowmobiles began gaining popularity back in the 1950s and there were lovingly restored classic sleds going back to those earliest days featured in the show. Many had been “tricked out” with all sorts of upgrades; some resembled futuristic space rovers more than typical Arctic Cats and Ski-Doos. One sled featured a portable grill and beer storage area.

“We had a great turnout,” Hersey said. “We had people coming from as far away as central Ontario and Indiana as well as Northern Michigan and the U.P. We’ve got a great variety of people here with some amazing sleds.

“These guys put their hearts and souls into restoring these sleds.”

Hersey added that the races have been rescheduled for next Saturday beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Proceeds from the event go to the Lakeview Ministerial Association’s food pantry.

Hersey plans to produce another snowmobile and classic car show this summer as part of the village’s Summerfest.

The weather played havoc with other scheduled events as well, including an appearance by author Robin Marvel, who was slated to speak at the Tamarack District Library, but had to cancel at the last minute due to dicey road conditions.

Likewise, craft shows at Lakeview Middle School and other locations throughout town saw sparse turnout due to inclement weather. According to Greg Heatherington, who coordinated much of this year’s Winterfest, some of the crafters were surprised with even the small turnout, considering the high winds and slippery roads.

“I was talking to one (craft show) veteran, and she said this definitely isn’t the worst one she’s ever been to,” Heatherington said. “And it was definitely better than expected, considering the weather.”

A Polar Plunge slated for 2 p.m. on Tamarack Lake also was cancelled, due to the odd condition of the lake’s ice.

“They heard there was water on the ice,” Heatherington explained. “So I guess they were thinking with the high winds and everything that people probably wouldn’t be able to get to town.”

Karen Mays, one of the vendors taking part in the show at the middle school, said about 50 or 60 people had come through during the event and that sales had been very slow.

Snowmobile show organizer Art Hersey, accompanied by his grandson, Aidan Royston, 8, inspects some of the foodstuffs the event brought in. Both proceeds from the show and the food will be donated to the Lakeview Ministerial Association’s food pantry. — Daily News/Mike Taylor

Jenny Bennett, owner of Blue Ribbon Bakery in Belding, was one of the few vendors attending the show who saw fairly brisk sales. Bennet’s friend, Shelly Giron, owner of Purse ’N’ Ality in Kentwood, saw few sales of her clever, custom designed purses throughout the duration of the event. Like most vendors and craftspersons in attendance, Giron blamed the weather for the poor turnout.

A few other events took place at various businesses around town early in the day, though most of these also were impacted by the weather conditions.

With Winterfest 2014 now behind them, planners are already turning their minds toward Summerfest and next winter’s festival. Organizers will meet tonight at McKenna’s Village Restaurant to discuss what worked at this year’s festival and what new ideas to incorporate in the future.

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