Fun Run set for Jan. 27

Annual snowmobile event now in its 18th year, registration ongoing

by Tom Coombe -

One of the area’s biggest winter events is fast approaching. Once again this year, the last Saturday of January brings the annual Fun Run - now its 18th year.
The communities of Ely, Babbitt and Tower will host the 2018 Fun Run on Saturday, Jan. 27, with the event culminating that evening with the massive wrap-up party and prize giveaway at Fortune Bay Resort and Casino.
Organizers say this year’s event will be as big, if not bigger than ever.
“We have more prizes than ever,” said Jimmy Zupancich, Fun Run chairman. “Last year we broke a record by giving away 690 prizes in less than three hours. We shot the prizes out as fast as we could and this year we’re going to try to get them out even faster.”
A fundraiser to benefit snowmobile trails in the three participating communities, the Fun Run has evolved into something much larger over the last decade-and-a-half, with the Saturday night finale serving as a reunion of sorts and a raffle and prize extravaganza.
Since its inception, the Fun Run has attracted thousands of participants including more than 900 in 2017.
Topping that mark may hinge on snowmobile-friendly conditions, and snowmobile enthusiasts are hoping that Mother Nature delivers more snow between now and the end of the month.
But even when trail conditions have been spotty, the Fun Run has retained its popularity.
While billed as a snowmobile event with participants urged to ride their sleds to the various checkpoints, a growing number of Fun Run participants used more traditional means of travel.
“We’re hoping for great weather but you have to remember if we don’t have good snow conditions you can go by car and truck and every year we have many people who do that,” said Zupancich.
While the event raises thousands each year, including over $20,000 in 2017 for area snowmobile trails, the Fun Run is also known for a large and impressive list of prizes for participants.
Thanks to the generosity of a long list of sponsors, thousands of dollars in cash and prizes will be given away.
Grand prizes include $1,000 and $500 cash awards, and the event typically features dozens of prizes worth $100 or more, for those who pay the $25 registration fee.
The Fun Run also features silent auctions and additional raffles at the wrap-up party, and a door prize raffle that usually has as many as 400 prizes.
This year is no exception, and the banquet room at Fortune Bay is sure to be filled with prizes - and people - for what has become a staple on the regional winter calendar.
Zupancich is quick to note that the Fun Run is a family-friendly event.
“It’s a fun day for the whole family,” he said. “We encourage people to bring their children. We have 130 prizes for children alone. Anybody can win.”
Check-in points at Ely (Grand Ely Lodge), Tower (Good Old Days) and Babbitt (Tank’s Bar) have been set up and participants can pick up bonus tickets at each site to increase their chances for winning prizes.
A spinoff of the Arctic Blast, which featured the Minnesota Vikings, the Fun Run brings both local snowmobilers and visitors to the area for an event that has traditionally raised money for the Ely Igloo, Vermilion Penguins and Babbitt snowmobile clubs.
The event has also provided a mid-winter economic boom and perhaps most importantly, a lot of fun.
Those wishing to take part in the Fun Run may sign up online at Registration forms are also available at Zup’s in Ely and Blomberg’s in Ely and Babbitt.
Same-day registrations are also available, but for $30.
“Winter gets to be so long around here,”said Zupancich. “But the Fun Run is right in the middle and spring will be here before you know it.”