Spectators, participants enjoy competition on the ice

FAIRMONT – The relief from below-zero temperatures came just in time for the Blizzard Snowmobile Club’s Icekahana snowmobile races and Southern Minnesota Pond Hockey Tournament held on Hall Lake in Fairmont over the weekend.

“This has been the best Icekahana since I can remember,” said Brian Ruschy, one of the Icekahana organizers. “There’s never been this many people just standing around watching.”

“We have participants here all the way from Nebraska and Illinois,” said Bill Krumholz. “We have 71 participants signed up for the speed run, which is better than it has been for the past couple of years.”

Milder temperatures led to more spectators at both events.

“At our concession stand yesterday, we made what we brought in total last year and then some,” said Kent Senf on Sunday afternoon. “Today so far, we’ve made what we made for all of last year, so we’ve brought in more than double than last year.”

Increased participation was cited for both events, with the pond hockey tournament drawing in both youth and adult teams. But not all people out skating on the ice were hockey players.

“There are a lot more free skaters out this year,” Senf said. There was more room for ice skating on Sunday, as tournament play narrowed down, and a few of the six skating rinks were available for others to use.

For the Icekahana snowmobile races, the move from Gomsrud Park to the Chain of Lakes Yacht club proved to be a successful one.

“The club is a great place for people to come in and get a snack, use the restroom,” Ruschy said. “When the Chain of Lakes offered this to us, we jumped on it.”

But on Sunday, there were few people hiding in the clubhouse or the warming tents.

“This is the most people I’ve seen out here for Icekahana ever,” said Blizzard Snowmobile Club member Norm Langford. “I’m talking about 10 years of this, and this is the best turnout I’ve seen.”