Columbus Fall River Sno-Blazers
Written By: Harley and Betsy Woodward
The club was first organized in the fall of 1971 with the first meeting held at the Resort on Lazy Lake in Fall River. The first trails went between the Cutter Inn on Highway 146 and 16; the Casino Supper Club; the Green Frog; Kelly’s Bar; and Club 60. The club started with about 70 members. Some of the winter events were a scavenger hunt on snowmobile, a snowmobile rodeo and sledding on Hatzinger’s Hill. Bud Jones also ran a poker run on a monthly basis between the pit stops. Some of the original club members still belong to the club, Don and Sharon Woodward; Dale and Sandy Standke.Some of our faithful members have passed on and we would like to recognize their efforts in our club work, George Kaschub, Bud and Mary Ellen Jones and Dick and Millie Firary.
In the early days financing was an issue and club members would pay memberships at the last meeting in spring so that there was money for the summer and fall mailings. Signs were homemade and the stop signs were made of paint can lids and can lids for blazers. In 1972 the club joined the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs (AWSC). Our first groomer was an old snowmobile pulling a bed spring with homemade grader levelers. The club purchased its first genuine groomer, a Bombardier, around 1980, from a club in Sturgeon Bay and fund raising began in earnest to pay off the loan. We held monthly bake sales at the Farmers and Merchants Union Bank and even published a cook book. We were awarded the first funded trail from the Green Frog to Kelly’s Bar. This short funded trail helped our club’s financial situation to support a groomer.
Another section of funded trail from the Green Frog to the Dane County line was added and the club found that we needed another groomer. This groomer was a Truck Track. Unfortunately, ideal snowmobiling conditions did not exist too often in the 1980’s. Club members did a lot of work for one week or two weeks of riding. Richard M. Firary was noted as the snowless president more than one time.
In the 1990’s we had more snow and that also helped our club grow. In addition to the grooming we built better bridges and used better signs. Our work was all volunteer work and no one was paid. We upgraded our groomer to a better Truck Track. Our club also holds an annual safari for a week-end of snowmobiling somewhere in the north. We’ve enjoyed trails in Medford, Iron County, Phillips, and Prentice, just to name a few places. Comradery is wonderful, and our members share many laughs on the safaris, even if some of us get misplaced on the trail once in a while.
In April 2000 we started work on a new bridge in Fall River by the school and Mickelson feed mill. This was a joint funding effort with the Village of Fall River. The village paid for half the bridge and the club was responsible for the other half. Because the bridge was built on funded trail we were fortunate that our club’s share came from the state funding for the snowmobile program. In fall of 2001 the bridge was completed at a total cost of $42,000. After many years the bridge is still a good looking bridge and the club works with the Village to maintain the high quality of the bridge.
Our funded trail grew once again by receiving funded trail from Columbia County for the Fall River trail to the Rio trail and also seven miles of Dodge County funded trail from Kirchberg Repair to the Old Rock (formerly the Shamrock) in Astico. Currently the club has funded trail from the Columbia County Association of Snowmobile Clubs and the Dodge County Snowmobile Association.
In 2008 the club received funding from the state snowmobile program and replaced an old bridge on the Bill Hermann farm. The cost of this bridge was $60,000. This bridge has been a wonderful addition to the snowmobile trails. More funded trail means more grooming, so the next purchase was a bigger snowmobile drag. Club member Don Borde grooms trails by pulling this drag with an 8400 John Deere tractor. Our other upgrade was to a Bombardier BL 180 with an Arrowhead drag.
With two groomers running, we have excellent trail conditions when snow is plentiful.
During our 40th year in 2011, our club membership was at 120. Our club has provided land owner appreciation dinners for landowners every year that we have been a club. Our first dinners were ham sandwiches, German potato salad, Delores’ coleslaw and baked beans at the Columbus Park Pavilion or the Fall River fire hall and now we serve a buffet dinner at the Casino supper club.
Our club is involved in many charity fund raisers. For many years we have been holding a white elephant sale and the proceeds have gone to Multiple Sclerosis,Columbus Fall River and Dodge County food pantries and Wounded Warriors. Our total money raised throughout the years by the club members is $34,067.
On February 13, 2011 we celebrated our 40th year on the trail by the Bill Hermann bridge. We held a wiener roast, souparee, and bonfire and enjoyed watching 100 snowmobiles stop on the trail to help us celebrate. Today we have 65 miles of funded trail, 56 and 10; and also 12 miles of trail that is not funded by the state program. All of our work is volunteer, but we have a great time working together to make snowmobiling a fun and safe sport.
Our club thanks all the landowners for the use of their land for our trail systems. Without the landowners we would not have the successful trail system we enjoy today. We request that all snowmobilers resect our landowners and encourage all to join a club.
The previous snowmobile season was kicked off with the biennial Fall Bash Fundraiser at Club 60 which has been a continued success for not only our club but also supporting the community! In December, the Minick family hosted a holiday and trail-marking completion party. The abundance of snow, followed by rain and warm weather made for a challenging season, but we still managed to organize both a local and destination club ride. There is a lot of work that goes into making the trails successful, but the Sno-Blazers can have fun too! In March, our landowners and renters were shown gratitude with a luncheon and fellowship. As the season wrapped up, the Bud and Mary Ellen Jones Memorial Scholarship was presented to Morgan Baerwolf, a 2023 graduate of Columbus High School.
Now, onto plans for this season, with hopes of snow, continued fellowship and fun, there is also a lot of opportunity to help keep the Sno-Blazers around for another 50 years! The Sno-Blazers have so many valuable members that have volunteered countless hours to ensure we have a local snowmobile trail system…but they are growing tired. These members are willing to mentor, train and continue to help, but can no longer do it all. If we don’t have some new volunteers step-up and learn from our experienced members while we still can, the future of our trail system is in jeopardy. Please consider, and thank you to those who have already started learning the ropes.
Nominations are open for officer positions including President, Treasurer and the Club Membership Chair. It’s your chance to get involved and lead a great group of people. Elections will be held at the first meeting of the season, on September 26th at Club 60.
New for the 2023-2024 season (if we receive enough interest) will be the ability to receive text message reminders! Please indicate on the membership form if you would like to subscribe to the Sno-Blazers text messaging. You can expect to receive texts for meeting reminders, trail opening/closing updates, and relevant events, etc.
Looking forward to another great season and continuing with the traditions of the past and creating some new long-lasting ones with your involvement.
Erin Jones, President