One Last Ride-In for Waconia

Thousands of people visit Waconia every year for the Midwest Vintage Snowmobile Shows

A snowmobile driver lifting up the front of the sled in a "wheelie" at the Waconia Ride-In. Courtesy Waconia Ride-In.
all photos courtesy Waconia Ride-In

The Midwest Vintage Snowmobile Shows, also known as the Waconia Ride-In, is holding a bittersweet show January 25-27: It’s the 25th consecutive year that the ride-in will be held at Lake Waconia, but it will also be its last. Due to changing county regulations and new development plans, the world’s largest vintage snowmobile show will be in a different spot next year.

Over the years, people from around the country and the world have come to see the show, and even a decade ago, shows were filled with 500 sleds and trail rides that were 600 riders large. Everyone can get into the ice drag and oval racing or the loud snowmobile contests, and swaps, a silent auction, special displays, and a banquet appeal to hobbyists, whether they are more interested in the tinkering or the nostalgia. As anyone who has gone to the Waconia Ride-In will tell you, make sure to grab their famous pork chops and chili for lunch.

“We bring our trailer there on Friday, and I usually try to get there as soon as the gates are open to park to hang out and talk to people,” Trent Messner, a 20-year local attendee, says. “We take in everything that’s there.”

Messner jokes that his friends and family blame him for taking them to shows like this and getting them interested in snowmobiles, too, but for Messner, he has always loved the sleds. Growing up, he ran around the farm with a ‘74 Moto-Ski Grand Sport, and after a couple of decades without a sled, his father-in-law’s snowmobiles got him hooked again.

Photos from the 2018 Ride-In include a Mater-styled snowmobile (from "Cars") and a long purple Arctic Cat.

While he has a few newer snowmobiles from the ‘90s and 2010, he has about 40 vintage sleds and parts for about four or five. As he has gotten more into the pastime, he has been contemplating downsizing in favor of older vintage sleds to get them running again. The rationale? The older it is, the more of the challenge it is to fix and the more fun it is to ride (they’re tippier).

“If the show has a vintage ride, it’s a challenge to see if you can complete the ride or not—even if it’s running out of gas like my son’s did,” Messner laughs.

You don’t have to be a vintage snowmobile lover to go to the Waconia Ride-In, but after meeting all of the friendly, passionate people and seeing what’s out there, you might end up being one by the time you leave.

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