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Snow or no, Fun Run a go

State Rep. Roger Skraba (R-Ely) addressed the crowd at the 2023 Fun Run event.

 Annual snowmobile event and fundraiser will proceed as planned Feb. 3

by Tom Coombe

Mother Nature isn’t about to put a stop to one of the Ely area’s most popular winter events.

Whether or not enough measurable snow covers local snowmobile trails, the Fun Run snowmobile event will go on as planned on Saturday, Feb. 3.

The Covid-19 pandemic and associated restrictions prompted cancellations in 2021 and 2022, but the snowmobile and fundraiser returned with more than 1,000 participants last year.

Organizers are hoping for snow but they insisted this week that the 2024 event will go on as planned nonetheless.

“We’re going to run this whether we have snow or not,” said Jim Zupancich, longtime event co-chairman. “It will not be cancelled.”

The 2024 event will be the 21st in the history of the Fun Run. It’s become a staple on the area’s winter calendar and is billed as a family fun event. It draws a mix of those who participate by snowmobile, and others who drive between the various checkpoints in the three communities.

“If there’s not enough snow we are hoping everybody will go by car, truck, we don’t care,” said Zupancich. “And then we hope they all come to the big wrap-up party that night at Fortune Bay.”

The big draw this year, as in every year with the Fun Run, is the prizes associated with the event.

The list seems to grow every year, both in number and value.

“I think we have over $30,000 in cash and prizes this year and that’s not an exaggeration,” said Zupancich.

Participants, for either a $25 advance entry or $30 on the day of the event, can increase their opportunities to win prizes by stopping at all three checkpoints in Ely, Babbitt and Tower.

In addition to the activities during the day, the event concludes with an evening wrap-up party that usually brings several hundred people to Fortune Bay Resort and Casino.

While all participants are entered into a drawing for $1,000 in cash and numerous other prizes, there will be several hundred prizes given away in all.

“Last year we gave away 840 prizes and this year there will be that many if not more,” said Zupancich. “For your $25 to enter your chance of winning a prize worth $25 or greater is excellent... And many people win multiple prizes.”

The event is known for the hundreds of prizes given away, including a fan favorite - a year’s supply of toilet paper.

“It’s going to be the biggest and best ever when it comes to prizes and gifts,” said Zupancich.

That includes a stainless steel fire ring, new to the prize lineup this year, as well as several electric scooters and electric bicycles.  Five televisions, all 65-70 inches, are being given away, while Fortune Bay will be home to several raffle tables with prizes valued in the hundreds of dollars, or even more.

“Some of the prizes are going to be worth over $1,000,” said Zupancich. “The sponsors really came through for us this year.”

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.

“People like the Fun Run event because it’s something fun to do during the winter and the money raised stays right here to benefit our local snowmobile trail system,” said committee member Nick Wognum.

Three businesses serve as check-in points but the influx of people usually helps other restaurants and shops in each community.

This year the check-in points are Grand Ely Lodge, Fish Tales Tavern in Babbitt and Good Ol Days in Tower

“We have people out looking for door prizes right now and if your business would like to donate get a hold of me or Nick,” said Zupancich.

At Fortune Bay, the hotel is almost always sold out during Fun Run weekend with hundreds of others coming to the casino for the wrap-up party.

The event has also provided a mid-winter economic boom and perhaps most importantly, a lot of fun.

“It’s a great event, one that breaks up the winter,” said Zupancich. “It’s a great weekend, a great family weekend.”

Those wishing to take part in the Fun Run may sign up online at Registration forms are also available at the Ely Echo, Zup’s in Ely and Blomberg’s in Ely and Babbitt.

Same-day registrations are also available but for $30.

While organizers are keeping their eyes on the weather forecast and hoping for a more usual winter - and one with enough snow to make trail riding a possibility in early-February - they say nothing will stand in the way of the 2024 Fun Run.

“It will go on rain or snow or whatever,” said Zupancich. “It will not be cancelled.”

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