While a huge success last year, poor ice conditions on Lake Thompson has forced organizers to cancel this year’s Ho-Drag on Ice races.
The event was scheduled for Feb. 22.
“We are just not going to risk the safety of the racers or the spectators,” Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce Tourism and Event Coordinator Kate Bauman said. “We are going to play it safe.”
Organizers went onto the ice Wednesday and found the ice 26 inches in thickness but the strength of that ice is deceiving.
“About six inches of that is slush,” Bauman said. “So that still puts us above our 18 inch minimum but as one of our volunteers had his truck sitting out there, slush began to form under it. With racing and all the people we cannot guarantee the strength of the ice.”
While the winter has been unseasonably cold, the large amount of snow has kept thick, strong ice from forming.
“We have had twice as much snow as last year,” Bauman said. “So you think, if any year the ice is going to good it is going to be this year. But I guess the snow insulates it.”
Last year’s inaugural event drew more than 1,500 spectators to the area.
“That is people buying gas, going to restaurants, staying over,” Bauman said. “The event was a great success and had an impact on our local economy but we could not take a risk.”
Bauman said the event will return next year, weather permitting as the long range forecast for this season is not condusive to good ice creation.
“We looked at the long range forecast and it is supposed to be 29 on the day we were going to have it,” Bauman said.
Some have suggested moving the event earlier in the year next time but Bauman said the end of February date was chosen deliberately.
“We chose the date because it coincides with the end of the Merrill Ice Draggers season,” Bauman said. “So they have all their equipment ready to go and we get that many more racers for the event. So we want to keep the date where it is.”