Lancaster Snow Drifters volunteers staffed LFD tanker #1 on Saturday morning to add more water to the ice at the Lancaster Fairgrounds, readying the venue for the upcoming weekend's snowmobile races and other exciting events. Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
January 29, 2014LANCASTER — Volunteers and contractors have braved biting winds and below-freezing temperatures to ready the Fairgrounds north of town for the coming weekend's events.
Scores of vintage snowmobiles are expected to be on hand on Friday, Jan. 31, through Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 1 and 2 for the Lancaster Grand Prix, celebrating the 50th anniversary of "The Kilkenny Cup," the nation's oldest snowmobile race.
In 1962, Lancaster was the first town in New England to hold an organized snowmobile race.
For the town's 200th birthday in 1964, the third year of racing in the series was dubbed the "Grand Prix." In the following years the race drew factory teams, and crowds that numbered 15,000 to 20,000, making it the largest outdoor winter event in New Hampshire — and possibly New England — earning Lancaster the proud title of Snowmobile City, USA.
In 1966, Timberland Machines, Inc., donated the huge silver Kilkenny Cup to the Grand Prix's chief sponsor, the Lancaster Snow Drifters — the nation's oldest snowmobile club.
This weekend the Kilkenny Cup — retired since the last race in 1977 — will be welcomed back into circulation.
The winner of the Grand Prix event will have his or her name inscribed on the trophy, joining past winners in what reads like a Snowmobile Hall of Fame.
The Lancaster Grand Prix is one of the kick-off events in a year of activities planned to celebrate Lancaster's 250th anniversary.
The Snow Drifters hope that the Grand Prix weekend will once again become an annual event that will attract outdoor winter enthusiasts to the county seat and Coös County.
On Friday, a Vintage Sled Show at Crane's Snowmobile Museum on Main Street will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The museum's 85 machines trace the changes in snowmobiling, from the Ski-Doo machines of the 1960s to today's far heavier and more powerful sleds.
From 5:30 to 11 that night, cocktails, dinner, music and dancing will take place at the Kilkenny Cup Ball at the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield.
Saturday's highlights include the Northern New York Vintage Snowsled Racers — about 90 racers from the Boonesville, N.Y. circuit — competing on the quarter-mile oval ice track at the Lancaster Fairgrounds.
Gates open at 7 a.m., and racing begins at 9 a.m., with cash prizes.
Later there will be a parade of snowmobiles from the Lancaster Fairgrounds down Main Street and back, followed by a bonfire.
The running of the Lancaster Grand Prix will round out the weekend's events on Sunday, with the gates opening once again at 7 a.m. and racing starting at 9 a.m.
Cash prizes will be awarded.
The class winners from both days of racing will have their names inscribed on the Kilkenny Cup.
"This weekend-long celebration is a great way to remember and commemorate this region's snowmobiling roots," said Cathy Conway of New Hampshire Grand in a prepared statement. "Snowmobiling has become a huge part of the recreation scene in northern New Hampshire, so we expect snowmobilers to be excited to take in some snowmobiling history this weekend, along with a few races and plenty of fun."
For more details, check out www.lancastergrandprix.com.