Winter Spectacular won't be held in 2019
Alexandria's Jeff Karrow remembers clearly looking up into the grandstands from turn four at the Viking Speedway in 2014 during the Winter Spectacular snowmobile races and hardly believing what he was seeing.
Karrow is part of the group that calls themselves 10 GDP (Ten Guys Dream and Promotion) who committed to bringing ice oval snowmobile races back to Alexandria for the first time since the early-1980s. That vision started in a garage with a group of people who admittedly did not know a lot about putting an event like this on. What they knew is that they loved snowmobile racing and wanted to bring it back to the local track.
That's why it was so special to Karrow, who also raced at the Winter Spectacular, when he saw fans piled into the stands that first year.
"I remember staging up in turn four there in the one class (I was racing in) and to see that full grandstand was just amazing," Karrow said. "You felt like you were back in the 70s, like you were one of the pro drivers pulling up."
The Winter Spectacular ran the first weekend in February for five years from 2014 through 2018, but the 10 GDP group decided it could not put on the races in 2019.
The decision was first announced on their Facebook page on July 13, 2018. Karrow said it was not an easy decision, but that with changes to different entities associated with the speedway facility, they decided to pull the plug on this year's races and evaluate things down the road.
"Most likely, we weren't going to have a renewed contract," Karrow said. "It wasn't a for sure saying, 'No, you can't host this event.' But reading through the tea leaves, there would have been quite a few more hurdles to jump through or different costs would be incurred."
Putting together the Winter Spectacular was a nearly year-long endeavor for the group.
Karrow said they each put in more than $1,000 at the end of last year to make sure everything was paid off. Karrow added that it cost nearly $85,000 to put the event on each year.
"The first few years, the nostalgia, people were like yes, what do you need?" Karrow said. "The first two, three years were easy to get sponsors, really easy to get volunteers. As things go on, it gets harder and harder."
For those committed to having the races in Alexandria, the cost incurred and the time spent preparing for the event started to add up.
"Going forward, we knew we were as a group tapped out financially, and we were taking more and more work on," Karrow said. "It took almost a million gallons of water to make the track. Then you needed the right weather and snow removal and fuel cost."
Even with that kind of work load, Karrow has no regrets about putting in that effort.
"I think the whole group would say it was a lot of work," Karrow said, "but I think the huge payback was bringing an event to a city where a lot of people said, 'Those fools won't pull that off,' but we became a premier event. I think we turned a lot of heads that first year."
Many of the professional drivers who competed at the Viking Speedway talked of loving the speed they could get on the wide half-mile track, while still feeling safe. The post announcing the fact the 2019 races would not be held on the Winter Spectacular Facebook page had 54 comments, many of them from fans and racers thanking the group for hosting the event.
Karrow got emotional as he read many of those comments this past summer. He and others in the group loved having the races in Alexandria, to the point where they have already talked about potentially bringing them back in some format. Whether or not that happens as a one-time show or on an annual basis again remains to be seen, but Karrow was open to the idea.
"This might not be completely done," he said. "We may have a few bumps in the road, but we said, 'Let's look at the state of racing in a year or two.'"