Fun Run event shifts into park

Snowmobile event and fundraiser scrapped by state gathering limits

by Tom Coombe
One of the area’s biggest winter events won’t happen this year.
Organizers of the Fun Run pulled the plug this week, after holding out hope that gathering limits would be eased in order to hold an event that in recent years has attracted more than 1,000 participants and several hundred people to an evening wrap-up party at Fortune Bay Resort and Casino.
Usually held in late-January, plans for the 2021 event shifted to late-February and even into March, but organizers said Thursday that they ran out of time.
“We need two months of planning to pull all of this off and we just don’t know if the governor’s restrictions will be lifted in time even if we did try to have it in mid-March,” said Fun Run co-chair Jim Zupancich.
Proceeds from the Fun Run support area snowmobile trails, but the event has evolved in its two decades and now serves as one of the top family-fun events of the winter for the Ely, Babbitt and Tower communities.
“This is going to be a hard hit to the three snowmobile clubs that benefit from this event,” said Nick Wognum. “Plus it brings people from out of town for the weekend and that will hurt our hospitality industry that’s already suffering.”
The cancellation also hits hard at Fortune Bay, where the hotel is sold out during Fun Run weekend with hundreds of others coming to the casino for the wrap-up party, where several hundred prizes are given away.
“It’s sad to see so many worthwhile events like the Fun Run being shelved due to this ongoing pandemic,” said Fortune Bay’s Brian Anderson. “The Fun Run is a boom to winter tourism and thanks in large part to the work Nick and Jimmy do in raising money for area clubs like the Vermilion Penguin Snowmobile Club and others—we all have a snowmobile trail system that is second to none and one that draws snowmobile enthusiasts from all over to enjoy.”
The Ely Igloo and the Babbitt ATV and Snowmobile Club also benefit from the event.
While portions of the event have changed and more prizes seem to be added each year, the crux of the Fun Run remains the same.
Participants, for either a $25 advance entry or $30 on the day of the event, can increase their opportunities to win prizes by riding or driving between checkpoints in all three communities.
It’s billed as a family fun event and draws a mix of those who participate by snowmobile, and others who drive between the various checkpoints. All entrants are eligible for prizes in the grand giveaway, and the wrap-up party annually includes several other raffles for various prizes.
The Fun Run is just the latest in a series of area events cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ranging from last year’s Blueberry/Art and Harvest Moon festivals to the Embarrass Fair, Ely Marathon and Babbitt’s Peter Mitchell Days.
The event will be held next on January 29, 2022 with check-in sites in Ely, Tower and Babbitt and a wrap-up party at Fortune Bay Resort-Casino.
“For everyone who has enjoyed this event over the years, please circle that date on your 2022 calendar. We plan to be back in full force with tons of prizes and a family fun event,” said Wognum.
“We’re very disheartened that Nick and Jimmy had to make this decision as they work so hard to make the Fun Run an event everyone looks forward to year after year,” said Anderson. “I don’t think people realize the work that needs to be done on their part to make this happen - let’s just hope things return to some sense of normalcy soon and that the 2022 Fun Run will be one for the memory books.”