Waconia Ride-In Celebrates Yamaha Snowmobile History


Submitted by Valdi Stefanson

The 2014 Waconia Ride-In that was held in late January came with significant anticipation.  After all, the entire snow-belt was experiencing a good old-fashioned winter: cold temperatures and plenty of the white stuff that did not melt between snowfalls. For the “Waconia crew” this meant days and days of snow clearing and site preparation. No problem because we knew that our full slate of events would go on, without weather interruptions like last year when the warm weather forced cancellation of the trail ride. No – this year was going to be full on! Moreover, with Yamaha as the featured brand and a few Yamaha powered cousins (Roll-o-Flex & Sno Jet) thrown in for good luck, there was much buzz as the magical weekend approached.Waconia Ride In 1

As it turned out, the weather was a factor – but it was the cold and wind that played its hand unlike the previous year. Saturday, it was cold but bearable for the swappers, racers and the 540 machines on the trail ride. It was odd to make the rounds and hear someone next to you say “Hi,” but not recognizing the person because of the facemask or hood obscuring their face. No problem, really, because the ballroom was warm and noisy with those that were warming up and ogling over the special display sleds. Waconia Ride In 2

On display were nearly 20 examples of Yamahas, from the company’s  1968 inaugural year through the early 1980s.  With their stellar racing heritage, you can imagine the significant race machines for all to see. Notables included the “Giant Killer,” a.k.a. the 1971 SR433 that captured the 1971 World Championship in Eagle River in a contest of speed often described as the most exciting race in snowmobile history. You see, a young Mike Trapp battled head-to-head with Yvon Duhamel’s 797 Ski Doo Blizzard, and the little Yamaha prevailed in a race with 13 lead changes! Another display included five Yamaha racers owned by Leon Koch of Crivitz, Wisconsin. Also, I overheard more than one observer comment that the 1978 SSR on display is the prettiest snowmobile ever built.Waconia Ride In 3

Meanwhile, on Saturday night temperatures were dropping and the Northwest wind picking up. The local TV station weather forecasters were scaring their audience with exaggerated claims of “dangerous wind chill” and were unanimous in stating that “travel is not advised.” Yes, on Sunday it was cold and yes, attendance in the judged show was down. The Oval Racers Alliance (ORA) oval racers soldiered on out on the Lake Waconia ice, with registrations up by 15 percent compared to the year before. However, the winds created blizzard conditions and eight of the scheduled 44 races were scrapped for safety reasons. Event organizers moved up the awards ceremony by an hour to allow everyone to get homeward bound a little early.

Waconia Ride In 4If you would rather see than read about Waconia 2014, check out this great YouTube production.  You can almost feel the Polar Vortex when watching: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGwTB1GP88E

A great family story came to light on Sunday afternoon.  A bit away from the show, we spied a family of four standing in front of pine trees and a collection of four restored Yamahas. I saw ponytails and thought, WOW – these are teenaged girls on an outing with their parents. As it turned out, we met a lovely family from Southern Minnesota. It was Mom who told the story of her father owning the local Yamaha dealership. Her future husband happened to purchase a new Yamaha from her father. A daughter was introduced and a result was this 2014 family photo shoot. Dad restored the machines in front of them, including the one that he purchased that fateful day. Even the girls seemed to be “handling” the situation. I heard that at first, they stated that the matching vintage Yamaha snowmobile suits that they were wearing were “dorky.” That was until several other people told them that they looked great in their vintage Yamaha attire. Now all of a sudden it was hip to be cool at the Waconia Ride-In.Waconia Ride In 5

2015 will mark the 25th year for the Waconia event!  It will honor the two Minnesota manufacturers in a theme titled MINNESOTA ICONS.  Set the dates of January 23, 24 and 25th, 2015 on your calendar.  Expect to see Polaris and Arctic Cat side-by-side.  Bring your favorite Minnesota Icon and let’s have some fun!  Keep current at: http://www.mwvss.com 

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