Ryan Catcheway is resurrecting snowmobile racing in his community.
He said Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation hasn’t seen such an event for approximately a decade. When he shared with friends that he wanted to get races happening in his community, Richard Shingoose and Anthony Longclaws at Waywayseecappo First Nation and Garry Naherniak in Russell were quick to step up and help.
The Keeseekoowenin races scheduled for Feb. 22 will join a circuit of many such races.
Naherniak has been involved in racing all his life.
"Now I am helping co-ordinate different towns, plus putting on my own races in Russell on March 8," Naherniak said.
Shingoose was great at answering any questions Catcheway had, and he’ll be helping out on race day.
As for, Waywayseecappo’s race, that takes place March 7.
Catcheway had to pick his own date, making sure he didn’t pick a date already filled up by any of the myriad events taking place in the area. He then hired another friend to create a poster. He plans on putting up posters throughout a 60-kilometre radius. However, he’s already had people who want to attend calling from Alberta, Winnipeg and Ontario.
"The guy from Alberta is talking about bringing a racing team. They’ll bring a trailer with four sleds. Each little town has their racing team," he said.
He’s also heard from people at Scownan First Nation, Crane River, Russell, Shoal Lake, Neepawa and Minnedosa.
Catcheway modestly hopes for at least 40 to 50 participants for his first event, and with 20 or so sleds already in Keeseekoowenin that target seems like an easy one. Shingoose’s Waywayseecappo race, in its fifth year, draws 120 snowmobiles and $25,000.
Catcheway has approached the Keeseekoowenin Trust, as well as the gaming centre and gas bar, for sponsorship. He’s approaching businesses at the neighbouring town of Sandy Lake, where many Keeseekoowenin residents take their business, such as the Co-op and bank.
Entry fees will be paid out as prizes, but Catcheway wants to increase the prize money by $4,200. Catcheway is even holding a bannock and taco sale in his community to fundraise.
"I can maybe make $300 to $500 right there," he said.
Catcheway said the world of snowmobile drag races is highly regulated, and those details have also helped him stay organized. The rules – a 45-page document – can be found at the International Snowmobile Racing, Inc. website. Everything has to be safe, the tracks the same length, a technician will need to check out the engines, and an ambulance will be on call. He said people who race know the rules.
Finally, Catcheway has registered the race as a non-profit entity and struck a committee that includes Chief Norman Bone, councillor Bradley Burns and community member Brian Bone.
The races are scheduled for Feb. 22 – a date that seems to be free of other events in the area – and will consist of 12 races in 12 classes. Entry fee is $20, $30 and $40 per race, depending on class. The race track will follow an old rail line, which ran through Keeseekoowenin, Sandy Lake, Erickson and Minnedosa.
"I want to keep it going every year as something for the community," Catcheway said. "It’s something for people to look forward to, I want it to grow and grow and grow."
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