Junker Sled, like many things, started out as a humorous suggestion and collected momentum when enough people wanted in on the laugh.
It all began as an idea in Chris Dobbins' grandpa's hunting shack in Sugar Camp, Wis. where Dobbins was hosting a trail ride weekend with some friends. Late on a Saturday night one of Dobbins' friends, Nick Johnson, suggested that they should do two rides a winter, but instead of their normal trail sleds for the second ride, they would be required to bring some $500 beaters. The idea sounded like a good hilarious time and after all the jokes about it were made they thought that was the end of it, but Dobbins kept thinking about the possibilities.
Dobbins then decided that a Junker Sled event of some kind needed to happen, just not on the trails. The fun would have fizzled with broken sleds littering Northern Wisconsin, so keeping the chaos in one location was the solution. Dobbins shared his idea to race $500 old beaters to several friends and it was very well received. One of those friends was John Kendall. John was immediately in on the plan and they decided on hosting the event on Kendall’s property, locally known as The Barn. This was how the first Junker Sled Weekend (JSW) came to be.
The first year brought a lot of interest, but with some uncertainties, it boasted a modest 11 racers. Race day however, was just plain fun, full of good laughs and good competitive racing. The story told is that when the first race started Dobbins' younger brother Tim got the hole shot with Dobbins and Kendall close behind. Going into the first corner, Dobbins was slightly ahead of Kendall and wondering how hard to push things in a fun race against friends. He said, “Your head jumps to thoughts you wouldn’t expect during a race, especially right at the start.” Just then Kendall came into the corner inside of Dobbins, delivering a seriously hard bump while attempting to pass on the inside. Dobbins tore off staying ahead (for a while) of Kendall thinking, “OK, full out. I get it. Awesome!” And that was how the pace of the race and the feel for Junker was set.
The event continued to grow for three good years at The Barn. Spectator turnout was great for this new event, which only added to the fun. Brats were grilled; music was piped in; and the racers and their friends enjoyed legendary post-event parties. Then insurance issues became a concern, and suddenly Kendall and Dobbins found themselves sitting in on a Three Lakes town meeting, hoping for approval to use a town park to host JSW. They laughed at how a crazy idea and mess-around event with some buddies had led them to this point. The town approved the request, and the new venue proved itself very worthy.
Dobbins' biggest drive behind creating Junker was to offer competitive fun for snowmobile enthusiasts starting at a very amateur skill level. Racing can seem intimidating to get in to, and Junker wants to welcome anyone, especially people who thought they'd never enter a race. The JSW organizers want to run in parallel with other sanctioned races offering our 'for fun' event for weekend warriors to compete with small budgets and limited time. They want everyone who shows up to race to actually get to race, and to also enjoy the camaraderie. You’ll have a hard time finding another competitive event with more racers working on each others’ machines.
So Junker is basically an event built by a group of people who love snowmobiles and a good laugh. A perfect mix of competition, hilarity, and unreliability (sleds only; the people are great). It is a fun journey for many of the racers, as they share stories and photos year ‘round of their latest adventures hunting for old sleds and fixing them up. Some get quite creative with the body work, paint job, and mods, mindful of their $500 limit. Others purchase their junkers the day before the event.
While the race takes place on only one day, Junker Sled Weekend is just that: a fun weekend-long event for many people, especially the organizers. It’s not unusual to spot some scary-looking things sporting skis, tracks, and race numbers floating around Three Lakes that Friday afternoon. Then when Sunday morning is coming down (Johnny Cash) you might see some hurting people at the local cafes with crooked smiles they can’t wipe off their faces, grabbing breakfast on their way to help clean up, already talking about plans for next year.
We welcome you to come watch ... or race! We just hope your snowmobile blows up before ours does.