Officials announced Thursday that the Caro Winter Fest is cancelled for 2017.
Event organizers cited the move as a result of snowmobile race organizer No Bull Triple Crown notifying the Caro Winter Fest board on Nov. 29 via email that it was terminating its contract.
“It has been determined that the Tuscola County Fairgrounds does not meet the minimum track requirements, as issued by International Racing Org and United States Auto Club Insurance, due to adjacent home and buildings,” wrote Mike Higgins, owner, No Bull Triple Crown, operated by Alma-based No Bull Graphix – a company that specializes in screen printing and embroidery, among other things, according to its website.
“This came as a complete surprise to us,” said Debra Lipan, president, Caro 150 Winter Fest. “We had been working closely with No Bull on event logistics since this summer, which included discussion of insurance, track conditions, marketing, and then unexpectedly seven weeks before the event we receive this notification.”
Marketing for Caro Winter Fest already was well underway, with advertisements placed in Michigan Snowmobile Magazine and The Winning Edge magazine.
A “rack card” also had been created for the event and was in the process of being distributed across the state, including the 14 Michigan Welcome Centers – efforts No Bull officials were aware of as they had approved of the advertisements, according to Caro Winter Fest organizers.
Caro Winter Fest said in a press release that organizers “scrambled for a week to see if it was possible to bring in another race” but that it was not possible logistically.
“Since the snowmobile races are the main attraction and draw for attendees to the event, (Caro Winter Fest) organizers had to make the difficult decision to cancel the event for 2017,” the press release states.
“It’s disappointing to have to cancel as I know it impacts the entire community, said Kris Reinelt, board member/marketing liaison for the Caro Winter Fest. “Many of the area businesses saw a boost in revenue during the three-day event; especially, the hotels who have been holding rooms booked for the NBTC crew, racers, and fans since this summer.”
Caro Winter Fest has been held annually since Jan. 2009.
It had included events such as a warming tent with food vendors, vendor sales, live entertainment, silent auction, and Penelope’s Beer & Wine Ice Bar.
But it centers on the snowmobile races.
In Nov. 2015, Caro Winter Fest and No Bull signed a three-year contract for 2016-2018.
Prior to the 2016 event, the track, at Tuscola County Fairgrounds in Caro, received extensive improvements and was given the OK by No Bull to host one of its three No Bull Triple Crown races.
To make room for the increase in competitors that come with the No Bull circuit, the Caro track was widened to about double its original width.
The Caro portion of the Triple Crown was the first leg of the competition last season, and was run January 22 and 23. The second and third events were in Mount Pleasant and Lincoln, Michigan, respectively, in February. The Lincoln event has also been pulled from the Triple Crown schedule and this season all three legs will be held at Isabella County Fairgrounds in Mount Pleasant.
No Bull Triple Crown featured a $50,000 prize pool last season, split between the champions of each race and the teams that accumulated the most total points through the three legs of the competition. That meant more racers — and more paying spectators.
Seemingly, everything went well at the 2016 Winter Fest.
“From what I’ve heard, it was the best enduro track guys have seen in years,” No Bull Triple Crown owner Mike Higgins told The Advertiser after the 2016 event. “It was a total success, total hit. Our gates were great, we’re totally pumped about making some small adjustments for next year and really excited to move forward with Caro Winter Fest in partnership with No Bull Triple Crown.”
However, on Wednesday, Michelle Ellis sent an email to The Advertiser indicating it was “not an easy call” for the organization “being so close to the event.”
“We had two very serious accidents and got extremely lucky that no one was seriously injured,” Ellis said. “One being a racer who rolled his sled and ended up under the fence and into the field. Had he hit a pole or got stuck under that fence, it could have been way worse. The other one, which was worse was a guy left his sled and both the sled and him ended up over the fence and getting assistance from spectators.”
Andrew Dietderich is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org