Hundreds of people enjoy free tubing, beer tent, and canoe/kayak races during Blizzardfest at Hanson Hills on Saturday
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Hundreds of people enjoyed free tubing (and free hot chocolate) and watched competitors race canoes and kayaks down the tubing runs at Hanson Hills Recreation Area during Saturday’s Blizzardfest event presented by Grayling Recreation Authority and the Grayling Youth Booster Club.
People of all ages lined up for the free tubing at Hanson Hills despite the cold temperatures on Saturday. Blizzardfest offered free tubing in the morning, and event organizers extended the tubing session into the afternoon hours following the canoe/kayak races. The Grayling Youth Booster Club conducted a beer tent fundraiser throughout the day as part of the festivities.
“It’s a good turnout,” said Justin Andre, Director of Operations for Grayling Recreation Authority. “I think it went great. We extended our free tubing. We had a ton of participants for the tubing portion.”
Last year, when Grayling Recreation Authority and the Grayling Youth Booster Club joined forces to create Blizzardfest, replacing Hanson Hills Recreation Area’s Winter Fun Days, organizers brought back downhill canoe racing, an event featured in winter festivals at Hanson Hills many years ago.
“We resurrected an old tradition here at Hanson Hills,” Andre told the crowd on Saturday prior to the Winter Downhill Canoe/Kayak Chute-Out.
Event organizers made a few changes this year to the canoe/kayak race, opting for a head to head racing format and two distinct racing lanes with higher barriers.
“We made some changes in the tubing hill for a safer run for the canoe and kayak race,” Andre said.
Andre said competitor numbers were up for the canoe race but down for the kayak event. In the canoe race, five businesses – Quality Excavating, Spike’s, Tinker’s, Cherry Capital Investments, and Hanson Hills – competed in a tournament format for the championship. The kayak race featured two individuals this year.
Mike Haapala won the kayaking portion of the 2020 Blizzardfest Winter Downhill Canoe/Kayak Chute-Out.
Andre said it was Haapala’s first time ever being in a kayak. Haapala said he was nervous at first but it was fun once he got going.
“It was a good time. I’m glad I did it,” Haapala said.
For the canoe portion, the two-person teams battled in head to head races, best two of out three. When the races were tied at 1-1, coin tosses determined lanes for the rubber matches.
Early in the tournament, Spike’s battled Tinker’s. Spike’s won the first heat and Tinker’s won the second. Tinker’s advanced with a victory in the third heat.
Cherry Capital Investments won 2-0 vs. Quality Excavating.
Next, the Hanson Hills team raced against Cherry Capital Investments. It was split at 1-1 after the first two heats. Hanson Hills crashed during the third heat and Cherry Capital Investments advanced to the championship round.
In the finals, during heat one, Cherry Capital Investments crashed a few feet before the finish line and Tinker’s won to lead 1-0. Tinker’s – represented by the racing team of Nick Terry and Aaron Mead – won the second heat, clinching the title.
After the races, Grayling Recreation Authority presented custom-made trophies provided by Brody Robison of Sylvester’s to the winners.
Andre said the day went well and Grayling Recreation Authority is planning to bring back a similar slate of events next year for Blizzardfest.
“It looks like we’ll be running again in 2021,” Andre said.