Thousands watch sleds fly at Maine 'Snodeo'

Posted Jan. 23, 2011, at 5:56 a.m.

RANGELEY, Maine — An estimated 3,000 snowmobile enthusiasts and riders of all ages packed Rangeley on Saturday for Snodeo, this western Maine town’s annual cabin-fever reliever.

Snowmobiles and riders were just about everywhere except downtown on the cloudless day that started below zero degrees, warmed to 12 degrees, and then fell to 10 above zero by 2:30 p.m.

The noise of revving engines and the smell of spent fuel permeated the air outside Snodeo headquarters at Moose Alley, the former Club House Restaurant on Main Street.

Andy Avelis of Newburyport, Mass., and Rangeley and Mac Dudley of Rangeley said the event was a success, and despite the chill, the day was “beautiful.”

“This is a great crowd today, given the temperatures,” said Avelis, who organized and ran Snodeo’s antique and vintage snowmobile display and show.

“Typically, it’s either 45 degrees and raining at Snodeo or it’s below zero, and the wind chill today, I bet it’s probably 15 to 20 below,” he said.

Dudley, vice president of the Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club, said 2,000 to 3,000 people had passed through Snodeo headquarters by early afternoon on Saturday.

Among the day’s events were a radar run at Russell Cove on Rangeley Lake, a poker run for snowmobilers, the Vintage Snowmobile Display, helicopter rides from Town Cove, and a Rave X Freestyle Show consisting of snowmobile racers performing crazy stunts while launching themselves and their machines high into the air.

Later in the day, a snowmobile parade and fireworks would close out the event while celebrating the Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club’s 25th anniversary.

Several people took a break from snowmobiling around the area to chat with Avelis and to examine the vintage sleds.

Thirty show or vintage snowmobiles from 1967 to 1983 were on display at Boss Power Equipment on Main Street.

“I’ve got voting slips over here if you people want to vote for People’s Choice,” Avelis yelled to those entering and leaving the lot. “Just remember the number on the sled.”

Vintage and antique sleds were judged on what people liked. The winner would receive a huge trophy.

“We’re not getting into what’s correct or the best paint job,” Avelis said. “This is strictly what people see and like the best.”

Across the street between the Moose Alley restaurant and The Loony Bin Variety and Irving fuel station, 10-year-old buddies Sean Richard and Jason Violet of Cumberland shared a hay-bale seat and watched what they liked best: Rave X Freestyle Show snowmobile performers warming up for their afternoon act.

“I like to watch all the jumps they do,” Violet said, his rosy-cheeked face barely visible in the hoods of his two jackets. “I think it’s really amazing how these guys can do this.”

Richard said he was enjoying all of Snodeo.

“It’s good, and I like the speedway down there,” he said of the Radar Run course.

Nearby, Al Sinclair of Fairfield and Alison Leen of Cumberland were trying to find a Snodeo announcer. Their employer, Michaud Distributors of New England, was giving away more than 3,000 bags of Humpty Dumpty, Wise, and Cape Cod potato chips in their debut sponsorship of Snodeo.

Both said they were into winter, getting outdoors and enjoying the atmosphere.

“I just love the whole excitement piece,” Sinclair said.

Avelis echoed that sentiment.

“For a cold day, we brought out a good number of people on a day below zero,” he said.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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