Hook and bullet club

by Nick Wognum

I remember the first incarnation of what is now commonly known as the Ragnar Fun Run. Back then it was called the Arctic Blast. The year was 1996. <BR><BR>Ten years later we’ve gone from the Arctic Blast to the Winter Blast to the Celebrity Blast to the Ragnar Fun Run to just the Fun Run.<BR><BR>Standing on stage at the Grand Ely Lodge I thought back to when this was an idea drawn up on a bar napkin. And to the successes and mistakes made along the way. <BR><BR>At first it was a fairly simple event but then it got complicated with seven Blast Points plus over 100 Check-In Points. We had a huge committee that met weekly and worked their tails off to make it all happen. <BR><BR>The money raised from the event back then went to the Minnesota Vikings Children’s Fund. Later we worked with the United Way. Today the money stays right here and is used to improve snowmobile trails in the Ely area.<BR><BR>One example would be the trail between Burntside and Lake Vermilion. The Ely Igloo Snowmobile Club used the proceeds it received one year to help build that trail. <BR><BR>This past year the Vermilion Penguins used the funding they received to pay for one-half of a new trail groomer drag they purchased.<BR><BR>That’s one reason why it’s easy for people to put down $15 to register for the event. The money is split evenly, with $5 going to Tower, $5 to Babbitt and $5 to Ely.<BR><BR>Of course you have to figure in the prizes. For a number of years we have brought in veteran announcer Tom Coombe to read off the winners of the door prizes that night. <BR><BR>This year Tom read over 300 names of prize winners. Even with nearly 800 participants, that’s just a ton of names. <BR><BR>We used to have seven communities involved and now we’re down to three. We’ve had the wrap-up parties all over the place and the Grand Ely Lodge did a great job of hosting this year. My favorite part? No smoke. Nice.<BR><BR>If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then the knock-off events of Arctic Blast (no longer run after some mishaps occurred last year) and the Winter Blast (run by the United Way) are examples of a great idea being shared.<BR><BR>We now run the event in one day. There’s plenty of work that goes on that day, both behind the scenes and out for everyone to see. But there’s a good share that goes on before the event takes off. <BR><BR>For that reason and others, it was amusing to see the statewide publicity the Fun Run picked up this year with a full-page photo spread in the Sunday Star Tribune. <BR><BR>The back page of the sports section was splashed with photos and info on what three small towns in northeastern Minnesota were doing that day. (For the record that was my daughter Megan on the second sled in the big photo). <BR><BR>But for those who volunteer their time and give of themselves to make it all happen, what drives them? Each may give a different answer, but there is a common theme: to make our neck of the woods a nicer place to live. <BR><BR>The Fun Run brings people to town where they spend money in our stores, gas stations, hotel and restaurants. It puts money into the thin coffers of three area snowmobile clubs. It’s a fun day for those who live here as well.<BR><BR>Ten years later it’s amazing the event has survived and continues to be successful. For all who have helped along the way, thank you. <BR><BR>We don’t know what the next 10 years will bring us. Maybe the Fun Run will go the way of the All-American Sled Dog Races and fade away. Maybe it will get even bigger. <BR><BR>Or maybe it will continue to just be a fun day for family, friends and visitors to get together and raise money for a good cause. That would be just fine with me.