For Fun Run, 19s are wild; 19th annual snowmobile event and fundraiser all set for Jan. 19, 2019

by Tom Coombe -

A schedule change has put 19s in alignment for one of the area’s biggest winter events.
The Fun Run is being held a week earlier than normal this year, but people should have no problem remembering the new date.
That’s because the 2019 Fun Run, now in its 19th year, is being held on Saturday, Jan. 19.
“It’s 19 on the 19th,” said Jimmy Zupancich, Fun Run chairman and longtime organizer. “We had some scheduling issues at Fortune Bay so it’s a week earlier. We hope people will remember that it’s a week early.”
On a day when 19s are wild, the communities of Ely, Babbitt and Tower will host the event as people ride by snowmobiles or their own vehicles between checkpoints in all three communities.
That evening the Fun Run culminates with a massive wrap-up party and prize giveaway at Fortune Bay Resort and Casino, where over 800 prizes will be awarded.
Organizers say this year’s event will be as big, if not bigger than ever.
“It’s going to be the biggest, best family fun filled day ever,” said Zupancich. “If you show up there’s a good chance you will win a prize and many people win multiple prizes.”
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.
Participation has inched upwards in recent years, with turnout topping the 1,000 mark in 2018 for the first time.
Last year’s Fun Run finished with 1,004 entrants.
Topping that mark may hinge on snowmobile-friendly conditions, and snowmobile enthusiasts welcomed a winter storm that dumped more than a foot of snow in late-December.
But even when trail conditions have been spotty, the Fun Run has retained its popularity.
“Some people choose to drive,” said Zupancich. “And even if you don’t go to the event during the day you can come to Fortune Bay at 7 o’clock and buy some raffle tickets.”

Zupancich noted an array of prizes, including the $1,000 cash grand prize that is part of the major prize giveaway open to all who purchase a $25 Fun Run registration.
“We have some great prizes, some beautiful carvings,” said Zupancich. “We’ve got a beautiful bald eagle bench worth over $1,500.”
Participants are also entered into an immense door prize drawing, when hundreds of prizes, ranging from a year’s supply of toilet paper to a bevy of gift cards and gift certificates and plush toys, will be given out in a span of 90 minutes.
The Fun Run also features silent auctions and additional raffles at the wrap-up party during an event that lasts about three hours and ends with many participants carrying prizes to their vehicles.
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, and the wrap-up party always includes the giveaway of more than 100 prizes geared toward children.
Thanks to the generosity of a long list of sponsors, thousands of dollars in cash and prizes will be given away.
“People have been so generous in giving prizes and we need to thank them,” said Zupancich. “If anyone still has a prize to give they can bring it to me (at Zup’s Store in Ely) or Nick Wognum at the Ely Echo.”
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.
“It’s going to be our best Fun Run yet,” said Zupancich. “We’re just hoping everybody can come out and raise money for our local snowmobile clubs.”