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 resident used to ride motocross motorcycles and rode to the races on his Yamaha FX Nytro snowmobile down Interconnected Trail System 81 from his Patten home on Saturday.
But no way was he about to try 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 1,400 people enjoyed the races on Saturday and Sunday, including about 60 racers on each day, enough to fill all but two racing classes, said club volunteer Alan Smith. No serious injuries were reported, but a few racers had some 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 Smith, the event’s primary organizer, blamed the good weather, abundant snow and well-groomed snow trails for the turnout.
“The snowmobiling conditions are so good that a lot of people are out on the trails instead of watching the races,” 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.”
More than 900 people attended the first day of the two-day race event at the Snowhounds clubhouse in 2009, with several hundred more the next day. The 2010 races were canceled by a lack of snow.
The club’s largest annual fundraiser 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 — not counting ITS 82, a major 25-mile east-west trail corridor that links Lincoln to the north-south-running ITS 83 near Seboeis Lake, and ITS 81 near Burlington — draws thousands of people to the area annually.
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.
Sponsored by 34 Katahdin and Lincoln Lakes region businesses, the event featured food and soft drinks in the club’s clubhouse on Town Farm Road that also helped raise money through the efforts of about 30 volunteers.
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.
Smith was happy nobody got seriously hurt in any of the races.
“It was a good, clean race this year,” Smith said Sunday. “There was a little bit of bumping and banging, but no serious problems. That’s part of the sport. As long as nobody gets hurt, we will be happy.”