The fate of snowmobiling’s biggest event hangs in the balance this week, as the host Sno Barons snowmobile club meets to decide whether the Haydays Grass Drags & Swap Meet will occur as scheduled on September 12-13, 2020.
The club announced recently it plans to announce its decision on the event — which attracts more than 30,000 people annually to a huge outdoor facility near North Branch, Minnesota — on June 11. Many in the sport — from manufacturers reps to aftermarket companies, racers, swap meet aficionados, fans and enthusiasts — are eagerly awaiting the decision.
The ongoing concern about the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus plus related restrictions on crowd sizes and public gathering has obviously had a major impact on many facets of life in 2020. While some states and regions are loosening restrictions on restaurants and hair salons, big events like state fairs and large-scale sporting events that draw massive crowds remain shelved — for now. Major sporting leagues like the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB continue to adjust plans and push-back actual decisions — first on if/when games will be played, and secondly on whether they will include spectators.
Gatherings in the snowmobile market — due to its seasonal timing — haven’t been as directly impacted. A few big vintage events have gone by the wayside, but late summer and fall is when the action really gets started, and we’re starting to see a couple of major events go by the wayside, but most events are taking more of a wait-and-see approach.
The biggest events to cancel so far are the Rum River Outlaw Grass Drags in Princeton, Minnesota, (which announced its cancellation May 28) and the Grantsburg World Championship Snowmobile Watercross in Grantsburg, Wisconsin (which announced its decision Monday, June 8). The full social media post on the Grantsburg event is posted below.
Which leads us back to Haydays. There is a lot of speculation back-and-forth on which way the Sno Barons will proceed with their event. Perhaps the loudest voices on social media are the folks that are saying that the host snowmobile club should put-off the decision and “see where this thing goes” with the virus, but planning and execution of such a huge event takes a ton of preparation and pre-event reservations and spending, not to mention the hundreds of people from the Sno Barons and other snowmobile clubs and elsewhere that staff the event — which draws upwards of 30,000 people to its grounds every September.
Elsewhere, some smaller events have started to happen — including asphalt drag race events and a season-opening watercross race. Asphalt drags, though, typically don’t draw much of a crowd, and the watercross at Brainerd International Raceway was held without an audience, similar to NASCAR races.
Meanwhile, planning for fall snowmobile shows — which are a bit deeper into the calendar year — continues in earnest. The Leisure Features company that hosts the Snowmobile USA events in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Novi, Michigan, posted online last week that it’s “Shows Are On” for this season. Similarly, planning for the Big East Powersports Show in Syracuse, New York, and Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Expo in Denver, Colorado — both hosted by Snow Goer magazine and our parent company, EPG Media & Specialty Information — is also aggressively moving forward, with plans for both shows as scheduled.
The real key with all of this, of course, will be whether the “second wave” of the virus that some folks are fearing actually occurs. And, oddly, the big protests across the country in the last two weeks may usher in a wind-down of the restrictions on crowds if the outbreak doesn’t notably expand.
As with everything in this odd year, the story will continue to evolve. Stay tuned.
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