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Snowmobile Watercross Weekend Provides Fun, Festive Atmosphere

By John Prusak

Stop the presses, hold the phone and freeze the Internet: The biggest weekend in snowmobile watercross is here!

As much as fans of the quirky sport would hope differently, the 37th annual World Championship Snowmobile Watercross in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, (about 100 northeast of Minnesota’s Twin Cities) will not be carried live on ESPN, its competitors won’t be hanging out with Lebron, Peyton and Danica at next year’s ESPY Awards and CNN won’t be sending out email alerts every 15 minutes, like it did with the George Zimmerman trial.

Instead, if you want to see one of the coolest events in snowmobiling on one of the warmest weekends of the year, you’re going to have to go there in person. Actually, it’s probably better this way, because Watercross Weekend in Grantsburg is a wonderful small-town celebration of zaniness.

We’ve been to all sorts of motorsports events from coast to coast, and seen competitors race everything from powerboats to ATVs, motocross to Moto GP, NHRA drags to NASCAR events, UTVs to sprint cars, as well as well over 100 different snowmobile racing events. We love it all.

But, the one thing that Grantsburg has more than any other motorsports events we’ve been to? Smiles. From the competitors to the race circuit officials to the fans along the shore, a weekend in Grantsburg is fun and often lighthearted, while at the same time very competitive.

snowmobile watercross

While the racing can be intense on the water, the atmosphere in the crowd is easy-going and fun-loving.

For today’s Friday Fast Five, here are five things you can expect to see in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, on Watercross Weekend:

1. Crazy & Intense Racing – For the uninitiated, watercross racing goes like this: Four or five snowmobiles start on shore, about 20 feet from the water’s edge. When the starting light flashes green, the competitors pin the throttle and hit the water. In the drag classes, the racers blast straight across the bay, and the first one to cross the finish line wins. In the super-entertaining ovals classes, the competitors run laps, circling the buoys. Trick 1 is this: As most people know, snowmobiles don’t float. If any racer loses momentum, gets caught up in the choppy waves or otherwise has something go wrong, their sled sinks to the bottom of Memory Lake, often to the delight of fans. It is then retrieved after the heat race by a pontoon with a large winch system onboard. Trick 2 is this: To get the sleds to run laps around the buoys, the racers have to tilt the sled and lean way, way off in the direction they want to go, while turning the handlebars in the opposite direction to get the back of the ski to act like a rudder, all while staying on the gas. It’s definitely an acquired and athletic skill, and a mistake often ends in comic results. But make no mistake, these competitors are running for World Championship status in their sport – the races can and will get intense.

2. Parties With Music & Fireworks – The watercross races are a great reason for a small-town festival, and Grantsburg does it with style. There will be bands playing live at street dances Friday and Saturday night. Throw in a beer garden, food vendors, a fun-loving crowd and, on Satuday, an awesome fireworks display, and you’ve got a barrel of fun. And, with camping available onsite, some fans really let the proverbial wheels come off at this party.

snowmobile watercross start

It all starts with a short blast off of shore.

3. Wrist Wrestling – Among the many little sideshows that occur at Grantsburg every year is a pretty darn serious arm wrestling tournament. Watch the could-be tough guys ooze with testosterone, while half their friends cheer them on and the other half of their friends make fun of them.

4. Vendor Displays – If you’re looking to buy assorted snowmobile gear, motocross gear, t-shirts with corny sayings or even arts and crafts, there’s a little bit of everything at the vendor display area on the south side of Memory Lake. Oh, and did we mention the food? From brats and burger to Oofda Tacos, mini donuts, fresh lemonade, cheese curds … it’s a good cross-section of festival food.

trick to snowmobile watercross

Lean and countersteer, lean and countersteer.

5. Excellent People Watching – There aren’t many snowmobile events you can go to in shorts , a t-shirt and sandals, spy gals in bikini tops and see a crowd that really varies in its make-up. Yeah, you’ve got a lot of snowmobilers there like you would at a grass drag, but Grantsburg also attracts a lot of non-snowmobilers who come just for the entertainment and the festival. Plus, during the day, it’s about as family friendly of an atmosphere as you’ll find, so you see more kids there than you typically do at Haydays, for example.

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