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Eagle River Derby Hosts Fall

By Stephen King

Usually, fall means a lot of things to a lot of people. For most, it means the end of summer. The kids go back to school. Vacations are over and it’s time to go back to work.

For hunters and fishermen, this is like their holiday season. The fall runs are happening in a lot of rivers and most hunting seasons are either open or about to open.

But, for snowmobilers, fall is usually the time of year for snowmobile shows. With temperatures starting to fall and frosty mornings now the norm, there are usually a lot of snowmobile shows and/or swap meets to help snowmobilers get ready for their holiday season.

However, this year, with the coronavirus pandemic, the fall shows have become just about non-existent. Just about all of the shows were canceled. However, one group did step up.
This year, Tom Anderson, along with partners Craig Marchbank and Russ Davis, who now own the Eagle River Derby in Eagle River, Wisconsin, really stepped up to the plate.

When it was announced the other fall shows had been canceled, the crew at Eagle River Derby Track decided to host one of their own Sept. 11-13. But, with only about a month to prepare, they knew this was a huge undertaking.

Eagle River Derby

I have put on some events myself, nothing of this magnitude, just some local events. But I know how much work it takes and how much time it takes to put together an event like this.

What is totally amazing is that the people at Eagle River pulled it off. They got in touch with a lot of vendors, almost a “who’s who” of the snowmobile world. Just about everyone who is anyone in snowmobiling was there.

A huge variety of vendors, swappers and snowmobile fans were on hand. Everything from sleds, to local dealers, to groomers, drags, clothing and racers — and on and on.

While wandering what was basically a state fair-type midway, I saw some familiar faces. Charlie and Marylyn Vallier from the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway were there. I also ran into Stu Volker, chair of the EUP Snowmobile Council and an area rep from the MSA. Then, I ran into an old friend, Jimmy McHugh, race promoter and construction firm owner. “I just had to be here. This is where it’s happening,” Jimmy said,

I was like a kid in a candy shop, going from display to display. There were many familiar faces and a few new ones. One was a company selling studs called Snow Studs. They were hoping to get the “hole shot” on competitors Woody’s and Stud Boy.

Then, there were the people that make the “Ultimate Drag.” They were hoping to use this show to show off their designs to the various groups and media at the show. And, it looks like it worked. They got my attention at least.

From doing this for 25 years, I have seen a lot of drags. And, from talking to the reps, this looks like a pretty good one. It is reasonably light, easy to pull and does a good job of grooming the trails. They also had a “mini” version.

Eagle River Derby

This had me a bit confused. I was impressed they had it hooked up to a “side by side,” but I was really wondering why? That you could pull this with the summer Trail Rider was just cool. But I could not understand why anyone would want to.

Then, they explained to me that people use the smaller version for “personal” trails. Many businesses have “spurs” running from the state trail to their business. And, the state frowns on clubs grooming private trails. Some do get groomed. but, for the most part, private trails are left up to the business owners.

Hence, the smaller drag. Just the thing for grooming a short trail into a business or even just a camp. These days, a lot of people have “side by sides” and always need another excuse to spend time on them.

Then, going down a different trail, what would something like this be without a lot of pretty girls? One got my attention. A very pretty girl with bright red hair. She was smiling and talking to everyone who passed by. Amused by me taking her photo, she introduced herself as Jenna. She was there with the Ski-Doo dealer from just across the street. A very pleasant girl, she is also very talented. Later that night, she sang the National Anthem and did as good as any I have ever heard. And, on a statement of the type of people we have, nobody was taking a knee. Everyone stood and listened to Jenna sing, with many singing along.

This kind of leads me into my next bit. I would really be remiss if I left out the “show.” Every time I have ever been at the Derby, I have always been totally impressed by the level of show they put on. They have never forgotten they are at the top of the snowmobile world and put on shows up to that standard.

Eagle River Derby

Their show that night again showed that same commitment to hosting world-class events. They had a “freestyle” exhibition with guys flipping and doing stunts on motorbikes and even ATVs. Totally impressive. (They had planned on having a sled there as well, but their “sled flipper” had other concerns and could not make it.)

But the crowd there was totally impressed. Every stunt got a huge ovation from the crowd. As the announcer called out the trick, the crowd roared as each of the drivers pulled it off spectacularly.

Overall, the event was a huge success. But, with the Eagle River Derby, it had to be. It is just what they do.

About the event, President and Manager Russ Davis stated, “When we heard that Hay Days and the other events were canceled, we decided to step up and try to host our own event. But we had never done anything like this before. When we bought the Eagle River Derby from the Deckers, we knew we wanted to put on some different events, and we had talked about doing a show. Then, when the other shows got canceled, we decided to put on one of our own. But, with only about a month to work with, we knew we had a big job to do.
And, with a lot of help, we were able to put on this show. I am very happy with how it turned out. We had about 150 swappers in the infield, plus all of the vendors and the freestyle show. We had a great turn out. The weather on Saturday was a little rainy and, if we could have had better weather, we would have had an even bigger turnout. We are very happy with how this turned out.”

Russ continued, “As a matter of fact, we have decided to make this an annual event. Don’t ask me when we are going to have it; we haven’t got that far yet, but we have made the decision to do this again.”

“I also want to mention that we are planning to do a lot of other events. We are looking at doing more racing. We have a lot of interest from the Enduro racers to put on a race for them. Plus, we are exploring other options. What we do know is that we want to keep up the tradition of hosting quality events. And, for our racers, vendors and fans, we want to continue to put on some of the best events anywhere.”

Now, if that first show was any indication of how this is going to go on, I personally feel that as fans of motorsports, we are entering into a new era at the Eagle River Derby Track.

And, I think we are about to go on a very cool ride.

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