Back in 1966 there weren't a lot of snowmobile clubs. The sport was much different than it is today and many people were breaking new ground. It seems like any company with the capacity to manufacture anything, was turning their attention toward snowmobiles to get a piece of this new action. As with everything, only the strongest companies would survive this fledgling industry. The same could be said of snowmobile clubs. Many have come and gone over the past 50+ years that the Sno Barons have been around.
To make Sno-Barons successfull, a club needs a common purpose. That purpose is unquestionably the HAYDAYS GRASS DRAGS. This event has grown year by year and is now recognized, as the largest event of its kind in North America. It has been referred to in many publications as the Grand Daddy of them All. The Sno Barons needless to say, are extremely proud of this achievement. But how did it all start
All clubs are conceived by people who have a common interest. According our most senior members, there were seven guys who shared such a common interest, snowmobiling. They were: Dale Ilgin (1st President), John Gorman, Dave Pegor, Louie and Jolene Wilhelm, Bill Porter, Lloyd Stanchfield and Frank Swensrud. These guys rode together often. One evening in July of 1966 they all met at the Crooked Lake Tavern. They thought it would be a good idea to start a snowmobile club. In September of that year a membership drive started. In no time, the membership had swelled to 150 people and had a waiting list.
As you can imagine, the list of suggested names for the newly founded group was endless. The first approved name was Crooked Lake Sno-Barons. The name later was changed to Anoka Sno-Barons. The next evolution was to Anoka County Sno-Barons. Today the club is known as simply The Sno-Barons Snowmobile Club. The roots are still primarily in Anoka County as always, but the membership is from all over the Minneapolis metro area.
Now about the Grass Drags!! How did it all start? The first race was in November of 1967. It was held at the Golden T which today is known as Majestic Oaks Golf Club. Back then, the entire event took place in a single afternoon, and it was known as the "Hay Day" race. Through the years, the race has been held at many different locations as the result of land development during the 1970's. As an example, the race has been at Nelson Farms in Blaine, Minnesota. Then came a site in Blaine near Rapid Sport Center on Hwy 65. It was then known as Wyatt Brothers Sports. Another move was forced by development, this time to Columbus, Minnesota. In 2010 growth of the race and development around us again forced Haydays to move. This time the move was to their own land in Sunrise Township in Chisago County MN. This is the current site of HAYDAYS. About 7 Miles East of North Branch, MN.
In the early years, the race was held in October and Early November. It only drew local racers. October and November are very unpredictable for snow here in Minnesota and so alfalfa hay was used to build the race surface - and that's how the name "Hay Day" originated.
A Milestone was reached in 1976 when SWDRA (Southern Wisconsin Drag Racing Assoc.) added the Haydays Grass Drags to their racing circuit. Race day was moved up at that time to the weekend following Labor Day. Now there was no question: snow would definitely not be a factor and or part of this race. From then on, grass would be the surface of choice for sleds to test and challenge each other for top honors.
In 1980 the swap meet was added to the event. It did not take long for this to grow into the largest swap found anywhere. It has been said, If it has ever been made for a snowmobile you will probably find it at the Haydays Swap. The racers come from all over the nation and Canada and so do the swappers. They come pulling trailer loads of snowmobiling treasures. The vendors have become an active part of this area and represent all interests of snowmobiling.
Concessions of course are a must at any large gathering and Haydays has the best. Of course in the early years, concessions were done exclusively by the Sno Barons. Char Gorsegner remembers all too well how much work it was as they and other members prepared 150 lbs of sloppy Joe's, brats, polish and hot dogs. Today there are many concessions operated by a variety of club and local civic groups. There are four beer gardens close to the all the main events so you won't miss any of the action on the track while you relax. A word also is appropriate to recognize the children of members who worked enthusiastically in both concessions and grounds clean up. Nowadays the job of cleanup and grounds maintenance is so large the Sno-Barons get the help of several local clubs to keep things neat and orderly.
The Sno-Barons Haydays Grass Drags has grown from attendance of only a few hundred, to thousands of people. But it wasn't until 1990 that Haydays became a 2-day event! To many snowmobilers and snowmobile dealers, this has been the event that officially starts the snowmobile season each year. And so it became known as the Official Start of Winter. Many of the manufacturers have chosen Haydays as the place to introduce new models. Some have been done in grand style with new sleds even flown down onto the track by helicopter. It was a real crowd pleaser!
The Haydays Grass Drags generates the money used by the club for a wide variety of things. As an example, a few years ago we began the Sno Barons Grant Program. Financial assistance is granted to other snowmobile organizations/clubs for such things as bridge construction and warming houses on their trails. Scholarships have been awarded to a student of Anoka Ramsey Junior College where the Sno Barons have been a major contrisbutor. The Sno Barons have made generous contributions to many charitable interests such as Make a Wish Foundation, Sheriff's Boys Ranch, The Food Shelf, local police, fire department and comunity groups along with many others.
The Sno Barons also put a great deal of money back into the sport. We support and sponsor other racing events throughout the area. We feel the responsibility to return money derived from snowmobilers, back to snowmobilers.
Nowadays, as always, the race still attracts the locals, but it also now attracts the fastest and most sophisticated machines in the world. The track has come from one that was full of bumps, to a groomed strip with cyclone fencing in beautiful condition. People says it is one of the finest. We hope to see you at Haydays this year!
Sno Barons Snomobile Club