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Ist Annual Ice "Fastival" on Chassell Bay
By MARK WILCOX, Gazette Writer
CHASSELL - If you were to stand on the ice at Chassell Bay, you could argue that it was one of the most peaceful, serene and quietest places around. That certainly won't be the case a week from Saturday when the roar of snowmobile engines and sound of cheering crowds will echo throughout the Portage waterway.
The Chassell Snowmobile Club is sponsoring the first annual Ice "Fastival" March 12 at the Centennial Park and beach area. The event begins at 10 a.m. with registration starting at 8 a.m. for the snowmobile events. Organizers said there will be snowmobile races scheduled as well as a host of other activities.
"We're going to see who will be 'King of the Bay,'" said David Mattson, of the snowmobile club. "We'll have a true quarter-mile radar run as well as 660-foot drag races. There will be trophies and prize money for drag and radar winners. We expect more than 200 racers." All contestants must be 18 or older to compete in the races, he said.
Mattson said one of the day's highlights will be the Excon Freeride Freestyle snowmobile shows. "Professional freestyle drivers will be jumping snowmobiles across 65-foot gaps. It will be exciting," Mattson said. Copper Country fans are no strangers to the thrills the Excon team provides as they recently performed for huge crowds at the Range Snowmobile Club. Excon performs throughout Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota and will conclude the season next month in Jackson, Wyo.
Mattson said there will be food and refreshments available all day, an antique snowmobile display and fireworks at dusk. While the day promises to be fun and exciting for the entire family, Mattson said there is a serious need for such an event in the Chassell area. "The snowmobile trail from Chassell to Painesdale is closed," he said. "We (Chassell) have no connection to the north or west." Mattson said the disconnect has hurt both local snowmobilers and Chassell businesses. "Business have been financially devastated. Nearly no snowmobilers are staying here. They are seeing far less snowmobile customers than usual." Mattson said communities outside of Chassell are feeling the effects as well. "The winter economy in Baraga, Houghton and South Range is also affected. This is a big deal," he said. He said the slowdown hurts more than businesses, it effects people. "Motels, restaurants, bars and gas stations logically keep smaller staffs when business is down. This hurts the financial well-being of our entire area." Mattson said he hopes the efforts of the club and the success of the festival will send a message to area residents.
David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette file photo
Nate Haag thrills the crowd with a superman seat grab off the 55-foot jump at the range snomobile club Feb. 12. The Excon Freeride Freestyle snowmobile team will perform March 12 as part of the first annual Ice "Fastival" in Chassell.