Goshen News, Goshen, IN

February 1, 2014

STORY AND VIDEO: Speedy sleds slide on Syracuse ice


SYRACUSE — SYRACUSE — For the first time in three years, the Wawasee Kiwanis Club was able to plan ahead for its Snowmobile Drag Races and Radar Runs. The charity event raises funds to help many people.

On Syracuse Lake Saturday near Lakeside Park, three racing lanes were plowed on the lake ice. Snowmobilers from around the Syracuse area brought their stock and modified “sleds” as they call them, to see who had the fastest machine.

According to Tami Vandal of the Wawasee Kiwanis, the event began more than 30 years ago.

“We had a dry spell when there wasn’t a lot of winter, so we started it back up several years ago and then we’ll have it for a couple years and then we won’t have it for a couple years (because of ice conditions),” she said of the event.

“So this is the first time in the last three years we’ve been able to have it.”

Vandal said 53 riders registered to ride in tens of classes set up bracket style to drag race down the ice.

Chris Elder of Syracuse, who said he’s been coming to the event as long as he can remember, was planning on racing his stock snowmobile but wasn’t concerned about his time.

“We just like to play,” he said. “Excitement, all the people, all the fun.”

Ashley Faulkner, also of Syracuse, was racing at the event for the first time. Although one of the few women racing, she said she likes to hang with the men on the track.

“It’d be nice to out-show, them,” she said. “I love riding, going out with the guys and doing everything they do.”

Another racer, John Michael, of Shipshewana said he grew up in Syracuse and has been racing his snowmobiles at the event since 1980.

“This time of year you can’t really get anything done,” he said. “I like to go out and do it and get it out of my system.”

Michael was running two snowmobiles and was very competitive but he said it’s more about the fun and the friends than winning.

“I’ve had pretty good luck the last few years. You win and lose,” he said. “I like it regardless if I lose or win just as long as I can do it. I see all my friends I grew up with down here. It’s the same crowd that’s been here for 30 years.”

He said he hopes future winters are cold enough to keep the event going.

“I just hope they keep doing it and I hope we have winters,” Michael said.

Vandal said that the money the Kiwanis Club raises from the event goes to local charities the group supports as well as Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

Vandal said some years the event’s status is up in the air until the last minute because of ice conditions. But this year they knew weeks ahead of time that the ice would be good to go.

Vandal said that despite the sleet and rain falling Saturday, turnout was still good.

“I think turnout is better,” Vandal said. “The weather this morning, not knowing if it was going to rain or snow or sleet, might have held some people back.”

Along with helping the charities, Vandal said the winter event is a nice community gathering for the cold months.

“It’s just nice to get everybody out in the wintertime,” she said. “There’s not a lot going on this time of year, so just being able to get all the people out here (and) everybody seems to want to see what’s happening.”

Follow Sam Householder on Twitter at householder_TGN