Dawn penciled a long, thin strip of orange across the horizon as the line of vehicles inched forward. Sipping coffee, you've been on the road for hours, bloodshot eyes reflecting the headlights of the oncoming traffic. The heavily laden truck and trailer creep forward in a slow parade of anxious participants, all anticipating this big day.
Weeks, even months of preparation are on the line as you hope to hit the jackpot and bring home the big money. At last you reach the gate, pay the fee, and are guided to your spot. Lights shine bright in the motor homes of yesterday's arrivals; the tantalizing aroma of sausage and eggs hitting the skillet wafts through the air.
Hundreds scurry about as the sun, curious of the commotion, peeks cautiously out, then leaps into a clear blue summer sky. A huge, open field erupts into a snowmobile swap meet as dealers, collectors, and bargain hunters hustle down the rows searching for a deal.
Money and merchandise are changing hands long before the general admission gates open. Scavengers hurriedly rummage through boxes of parts being set out, hoping to uncover that coveted item, then move quickly on. Good bargains won't last long.
Complete sleds of varying condition, from old iron dogs to new models, and all years in between are bought, sold, and scrutinized. Honesty not a prerequisite, prospective buyers are assured whatever part being considered will surely fit their particular need, and all used engines run exceptionally well.
Large swaps can cover many acres, and sponsoring club’s providing trailer service to transport sleds and parts. Some allow browsers to use golf carts or ATVs for easy shopping. A family event, parents meander about, pulling wagons full of kids or pushing strollers, many with a snowmobile seat or set of pipes strapped to the back, under the watchful eye of a toddler.
Big swap meets can span a three-day period, attracting buyers and sellers from thousands of miles away. Through the haggling and the dickering, old friendships are renewed and new ones formed.
The swap itself is not always the main attraction. Snowmobile grass drags are usually the basis for the event; some featuring night races under the lights, and many offer vintage classes due to the recent surge in popularity. Antique and vintage shows and displays are highlights. Some have Kitty Kat races on the grass oval, and ATV and dirt bike exhibitions.
A carnival-like atmosphere is present, with all the frills of a State Fair midway. You can enjoy a pork chop on a stick, cheese curds or mini donuts. A quick stop at the beer tent will quench your thirst. Planes circle overhead pulling advertising banners, and air tours by helicopter are available. Freed from the confines of bulky snowsuits, snow bunnies prance in warm weather attire, leaving much less to the imagination.
Snowmobile and after-market parts manufacturers have hospitality tents displaying new sleds and products, showing videos and handing out literature. Publishers give away complimentary magazines and sell subscriptions. Clubs and organizations man booths offering memberships, trail maps, and raffle tickets. Promoters work the crowd distributing flyers for upcoming events.
Of course, there's the satellite experience. This can be somewhat disturbing for youngsters, first-timers, and the squeamish. Best to get your business done early before the long lines form.
When shadows grow long and the sun sinks low, weary swappers will pack it in, assess their gains and losses, and head for home.
Those who choose to stay are treated to a night of racing under the lights, or simply wandering from camp to camp, sharing a beverage and a tale or two. In classic snowmobiler fashion, the revelry and merriment will continue into the wee hours of the morning, much to the dismay of those wishing to get some sleep.
As dawn splashes orange upon the morning sky, the line is forming at the entrance gate. Thousands of enthusiasts again converge on the field to create a city of snowmobilers, each citizen basking in the camaraderie that bonds us all together, regardless of the season.
Reprinted with permission.