The 29th annual Trailblazer snowmobile poker derby took place on Feb. 7 with 210 snowmobiles registered. A breakfast of pancakes and sausage was supplied by the Kelvington Men’s Club and registration took place in the Legion Community Centre, with dozens of volunteers helping out at the hall and on the trails. While the day began with sketchy weather, by noon and before the last snowmobile headed out from Kelvington, the sun was shining and the snow had stopped falling.
Choosing from four different loops of 40, 60, 80 or the daunting 100-mile, riders headed into the Porcupine Forest Reserve shortly after breakfast, most returning back to town by mid-afternoon. Hotdogs and hot chocolate were available along the trail and snowmobilers had access to various warmup shelters equipped with woodstoves to heat up all sorts of buns.
Winner of the best poker hand was Ryan Pearson, who, because he was also on the trails that day, took home $1000. Kim Bisschop, Earl Rennie and Gord Dennis came in second, third and fourth, respectively.
Travis Shirley hit the trails on a machine fashioned in 1997 and that made his sled the oldest one on the trail, but a mere chick compared to the oldest rider, who had to crank himself straight after rolling off his machine at the end of a long day. Jim Hendren, local logger and sledder extraordinaire, once remarked to Father Time over a tumbler of mead, “I may have more rings than redwood but you’ll have to chop my frozen fingers off my sled before I’ll put that pastime to bed.”
Verla Campbell was the oldest lady snowmobiler, sledding in for breakfast before heading out the trails. Apparently it was her husband Ken’s turn to break an egg, making the flapjacks frying in town look like a good alternative.
From Fort McMurray, Alta., came Ryan Nieckar to slice through the snowbanks, making him the rider from furthest away.
The hall was full for the evening supper. Patrons could buy tickets on more than 50 bucket draws and of course everyone was waiting for the 8 o’clock draw for the snowmobile.
While part of the mandate of the derby is to provide access to some of the best trails in the province, it is also a fundraiser to help pay for trail maintenance, equipment upkeep and shelter repairs. Final numbers on the amount raised by the derby were not available at press time.
By Susan Lowndes