The Haydays Grass Drags and Swap Meet is on — for now — according to a highly anticipated announcement tonight from the host Sno Barons snowmobile club.
Haydays (alternatively spelled Hay Days in some references by the Sno Barons) is snowmobiling’s biggest event — drawing upwards of 40,000 people to a 180-acre site about 8 miles east of North Branch, Minnesota, annually.
This year, the host Sno Barons snowmobile club was put in a nearly impossible position, with safety advocates and state rules pressuring large events like it to cancel, but thousands of snowmobilers and snowmobile-related businesses pressuring them to continue with planning for their 54th annual event — including broad support for an online petition.
All day long, folks waiting anxiously for the club’s promised June 11 announcement. When it finally came at 7:15 p.m. central time, the proclamation said that planning for the September 12-13 event would continue, but the statement included many caveats about what could happen — which probably should have been expected, given the emerging nature of the conoravirus threat and fears of a “second wave” that could shut down commerce again.
After an opening paragraph, in bold type the announcement stated that “After much discussion we’ve decided to proceed with preparations for Hay Days 2020 as scheduled,” but later in the same paragraph the club stated that it would be “closely monitoring the rapidly evolving state and local guidelines and their impacts on our plans.” Then, in bold at the end of the graph, the club stated, “Please understand as the situation unfolds over the next three month, the possibility exists that we may need to revisit our decision.” It also hinted at new guidelines that might have to be put in place for this year’s event.
Here’s the full statement — copied and pasted from the email sent out by the Sno Barons to vendors Thursday evening.
As communicated last week, we are providing you a status on the planning for Hay Days 2020. First we want to thank everyone who provided input, both solicited and unsolicited, on the importance of Hay Days to the powersports community. At the same time, we’ve needed to weigh health and safety concerns presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and feel confident we could host an event that was both safe and worthwhile for everyone involved.
After much discussion we’ve decided to proceed with preparations for Hay Days 2020 as scheduled. While no one can predict what COVID-related challenges may still exist three months from now, we are hopeful the situation will continue to improve. Understanding it will take many months if not years for the nation to return to the pre-COVID freedoms we once enjoyed, our efforts over the three months leading to Hay Days will be focused on the changes necessary to safely conduct Hay Days recognizing a new reality where physical distancing, robust sanitation practices, and self-awareness must be front and center. We will also be closely monitoring the rapidly evolving state and local guidelines and their impacts on our plans. Please understand as the situation unfolds over the next three months, the possibility exists that we may need to revisit our decision.
Over the next few weeks as our readiness plans develop, we will be communicating regularly with exhibitors, food vendors, racers, staff, and our guests to set expectations and collaboratively develop the new protocols that must be diligently followed. Please monitor haydays.com for the latest event-related information and expect our Hay Days event team to be reaching out with more information.
Sno Barons Snowmobile Club
The Haydays event – which, in terms of attendance, has become the undisputed biggest annual event in snowmobiling – has been held every previous year since 1967, when the first Haydays was held in November in Ham Lake, Minnesota, at what now is the site of the Majestic Oaks Golf Club. The grass drag racing was rather grass roots at first, but by the mid 1970s it became one of the most important race events of the year, and continued to grow in stature into the 2000s. The accompanying massive swap meet – which now has really become the catalyst for much of the crowd – was added in 1980.
Haydays was held at a various sites in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul before settling into a Columbus Township location between Lino Lakes and Forest Lake, adjacent to Waldoch Sports, in 1983. It was always popular, but in the 1990s it exploded into a mass event, with more than 35,000 in 1994 and claims of 60,000 people one year before the end of the decade.
After 26 years in the Columbus Township location, Haydays was moved to its current location in Sunrise Township east of North Branch, Minnesota, in 2010. The first year at that Sno Barons-owned location was a bit of a catastrophe, thanks to weather, parking and crowd control issues, but the event quickly recovered and remains the crown jewel of the sport, and the unofficial start to the run-up to winter.
Through the years, though, it’s grown well beyond being a grass drag and swap meet, as a huge vendor area, autograph sessions, new sled unveilings, freestyle shows, vintage displays, live entertainment, a mud bog, ATV/UTV demo rides, an RC track, State Fair-like food vendors, Terracross racing and more added to the spectacle.
Editor’s Note: This review was originally published in the October 2020 issue of Snow Goer. Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.