More people who help make snowmobiling possible are getting their just recognition. Four grassroots leaders and one national figure will be honored for their efforts supporting snowmobiling when they are inducted as the Class of 2019 in the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame this fall.
Announced July 9 as the 2019 class were Less Ollila from Minnesota, Don & Diane Reed from Michigan and Wall Thill from Wisconsin, plus Christine Jourdain Baker from the American Council of Snowmobile Associations. The Hall also will recognize a Club, Dealer and Groomer of the Year at its September awards ceremony, plus will hand out a Edgar Hetteen Memorial Award of Merit – to read more about those awards and award winners, click here.
Local Leaders With Big Impacts
The new ISHOF class of honorees has a notable Upper Midwestern bent this year.
Les Ollila will be recognized for a lifetime of commitment to the sport in Minnesota, where he spent his career in the Department of Natural Resources before retiring eight years ago, but he is still connected to the trails community.
“One of the brightest lights in Minnesota’s trail development and building is Les Ollila,” the induction press release information from ISHOF said. “The Grand Rapids native spent 36 years in the DNR before retiring in 2011. A lifetime advocate for trails, Les continues to push for improved trail systems in the state even in his retirement. As a staunch advocate for trails, he was a major player right from the start in the development of the 165-mile long Taconite State Trail that took several years to finish. Other trails he was instrumental in developing are the Arrowhead and C.J. Ramstad North Shore State Trails that are premier trails in the state. Today Minnesota offers over 22,000 miles of funded trails, many of which Les had a hand in developing.”
Ollila was also recognized for the efforts he put into organizing groomer demos, governor and innkeeper rides, and other efforts to educate non-snowmobilers about the sport.
“While he worked mainly in the MN DNR Region 2 of Northeast Minnesota, his influence on trail programs can be seen throughout the state,” the ISHOF information said.
Champions of snowmobiling in Michigan in general and most specifically in the Upper Peninsula, the husband-and-wife team of Don and Diane Reed will also be inducted.
“Snowmobiling started for this couple while they were stationed at the KI Sawyer Air Force Base in the U.P. of Michigan,” the induction announcement reads. “What has followed is a 21-year commitment by both of them to promote and expand the sport in the Seney area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“Following their military retirement, they have taken this very small and almost unnoticed town and turned it into a Mecca for snowmobilers. Don has worked his way up through the local club and regional levels to having served the Michigan Snowmobile Association as president. During all this time, Diane has been at his side with her knowledge of computers and a special talent for coordinating the numerous events they have created.”
The couple’s efforts on the 14-year-old Snowmobile Veterans Ride, which attracts more than 350 participants, as well as running the annual Groomer’s Ball and Show were mentioned, as were Don’s roles as the Seney area’s Trail Boss and the couple’s rewriting of the DNR Grant-in-Aid Handbook and overall knowledge and dedication to the sport.
Hailing from Fredonia, Wisconsin, Wally Thill’s history in snowmobiling dates to 1968 when, as an employee of Mercury Marine, he bought one of the brand’s snowmobiles and soon thereafter became involved with grassroots snowmobiling as a director of the then-new Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs (AWSC).
“That was 50 years ago and he remains a director today,” the ISHOF announcement states. “With his 50 years of service to the AWSC, Wally has championed the sport from the grass roots of its formation and early struggles through its many legislative victories and has been at the front of each effort. In the early days of the AWSC, Wally was instrumental in the forming of many area clubs. Always promoting safe and responsible snowmobiling, he recognized the importance and value of clubs and organized snowmobilers. Wally has served many years as chairman of the AWSC Legislative Committee, Insurance Committee and also Audit Committee where his financial skills are utilized.
“Along with his wife, Mary Ann, Wally is a tireless worker for his community and the promotion of the sport of snowmobiling.”
National Leader Gets Recognized
The current and only leader of the American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA) also will be recognized with a Hall of Fame honor this fall. Christine Jourdain Barker has served as the national organization’s executive director since it was formed in 1995.
“During that time Christine provided dedicated and tireless leadership to the advancement of snowmobiling through the state associations, development of leadership skills, advocating land use and access and the creation of national partnerships with numerous other outdoor land use groups,” the induction paperwork reads. “She has created and organizes the ‘ASCA Fly-In’ in Washington, D.C. that each year brings snowmobilers from across the nation to meet, face-to-face, with over 250 of their legislators.”
Also mentioned were Jourdain Barker’s “Enlightenment Rides” with members of the U.S. Forest Service and numerous other ACSA programs.
Ceremony In September
The Class of 2019 plus the other honorees will be inducted at a banquet and induction ceremony in Eagle River, Wisconsin, on September 21. Throughout the weekend of the event, there will be special get-togethers, a silent auction and other activities before the formal induction dinner and celebration Saturday evening. For details and registration information, click here.
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