LINCOLN, Maine — Watching snowmobiles whizz by on the track at the Lincoln Snowhounds Snowmobile Club’s 11th annual Sno-Cross Races left Dwayne Rideout feeling his age.
The 50-year-old Brewer man, who used to ride motocross motorcycles, drove to the races on his Yamaha FX Nytro snowmobile down Interconnected Trail System 81 from his Patten home Saturday.
But there was no way he was trying sno-cross racing.
“I don’t bounce very well,” Rideout said, explaining that many years ago, a bad fall from his motorcycle left him limping for about a year. “I am too old. I don’t do that anymore.”
Not that his excuses had much traction with his friend Brett Randall, 39, of Glenburn.
“I have been trying to get him to go out there,” Randall said, “but he keeps wimping out.”
So Rideout said he did the next best thing: He sponsored snowmobile racer Nicholas Huff of Orrington and got some publicity for his business, Rideout’s Automotive in Brewer.
“He’s just a kid,” Rideout said of Huff. “I would rather see kids out doing this than doing drugs.”
As many as 700 people, including about 60 racers, enjoyed the races Saturday, said club volunteer Victoria Smith. There were enough racers to fill all but two racing classes. No serious injuries were reported, but a few racers had close calls when they got thrown from their sleds.
The number of spectators was about average, but the number of registered racers was low, volunteer Kelly Stewart said. She and Alan Smith, Victoria’s father and the event’s primary organizer, blamed the good weather, abundant snow and well-groomed snowtrails for the turnout.
“The snowmobiling conditions are so good that a lot of people are out on the trails instead of watching the races,” Alan Smith said. “There is so much good snow out there right now that they don’t have to come here. They can find good sledding right in their backyards.”
The club’s largest annual fundraiser, the two-day race event in 2009 drew more than 900 people the first day at the Snowhounds clubhouse, with several hundred more the next day. The 2010 races were canceled due to a lack of snow.
The fundraising helps pay for the club’s trail grooming efforts, a key component of the Lincoln Lakes Region’s economy, as snowmobiling on Lincoln’s more than 100 miles of trails draws thousands of people to the area annually.
Those trails do not include ITS 82, the 25-mile east-west trail corridor that links Lincoln to the north-south-running ITS 83 near Seboeis Lake, and ITS 81 near Burlington.
The club gave a major boost to Route 6 merchants last month when it worked with the Town Council and Buckley Avenue residents to reach a temporary compromise that will keep ITS 82 open until spring. ITS 82 connects with ITS’ 81 and 83, effectively giving Lincoln statewide access to the state’s snowmobile trail network.
Focus of the efforts of about 30 club volunteers, and sponsored by 34 Katahdin and Lincoln Lakes region businesses, the event featured food and soft drinks in the clubhouse on Town Farm Road that also helped raise money.
Close to a dozen volunteers helped shape the twisting, mogul-filled track, which ran about 1,400 feet long and 9 feet high and wide, and did a good job, said racer Katelyn Olsen, 13, of Hartford.
“It was fast, very fast,” said Olsen, who won the Sport Women and Junior Sport 600 class races on her Arctic Cat snowmobile. “I had a great time on it. We race all over the state and beyond, so this was kind of a local race for us to be in.”
Her mom, Bobbie Olsen, credited Katelyn with doing a good job picking her race lines and keeping the other racers, especially the boys, behind her.
The races resume at 11 a.m. Sunday and continue until about 4 p.m. Spectators can take their road vehicles or snowmobiles to visit, as snowmobile parking is available on a field adjacent to the track.