Last weekend, the first-ever Ho-Drags on Ice was held on Lake Thompson. We caught up with Lara Reed, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce executive director, to find out how the event went and what is in store for its future.
Star Journal: How did the idea to have vehicles race on the ice come about?
Lara Reed: Merrill has been having these types of drag races for 40 years and two avid drag racers, Dick Jennejohn and Joe Peek, approached me about having them up here. Basically, the season for drag racing on ice is over in the Merrill area and they were looking for a way to extend the season.
SJ: Why did you think it was a good idea to try this kind of event?
LR: Well, it is really a different type of winter activity than we know up here. There are races with snowmobiles and we have snowmobile trail riding and ice fishing, and many other sports like skiing and snowshoeing, but I had never heard of drag races on ice with vehicles with rubber tires.
SJ: How did you structure the event?
LR: We basically took a look at Merrill’s success and went from there. There were seven different classes such as two-wheel drive vehicles; four-wheel drive; street stock; modified vehicles; and we even had an outlaw class, where basically pretty much anything goes.
SJ: How many drivers participated?
LR: There were 25 drivers that came to race.
SJ: How many spectators would you say came to watch?
LR: It would be safe to say that about 1,000 people were there and that is so good for our economy. That means people were eating out, shopping and checking out our area. In fact, I had two guys stop from Minnesota, and get their pictures taken in front of the Hodag statue on Monday. They told me they were in the Rhinelander area just for this event and to me, that’s a good sign.
SJ: Was Lake Thompson a good spot to hold these races?
LR: It really was. Of course, we were looking for a lake that would have the proper distance for racing and the racers being able to stop. We also didn’t want it in an area where there were a lot of ice shanties up and lots of snowmobile traffic. This bay in Lake Thompson was perfect because it had a public boating landing and plenty of space.
SJ: This was a first-time event for this area. Were there any problems?
LR: Parking got to be a little tight and as more and more spectators came to watch, we had to frantically plow more space. But that, in my opinion, was a good problem!
SJ: How deep must the ice be on a lake to have this type of event?
LR: We were told to have at least 18 inches of ice and we had that. Some of these racers actually race with nails embedded in their tires, so they make some pretty deep grooves over time.
SJ: Was food served?
LR: Yes, the Am-Vets served food all day like hot dogs, burgers, hot chocolate and coffee. One of the servers told me they had to go to the store three times to replenish their supplies, so they did very well.
SJ: Was any money made at this event?
LR: No admission was charged, but we did charge the drivers and anyone who wanted to get into the pit crew area. It was more or less a break-even event for the chamber, which I feel is pretty good for the first time.
SJ: In your opinion, what would you say was the most exciting part of the Ho-Drags?
LR: There was one car that actually broke a record by going 145 miles per hour. The drag is only 1/8 of a mile, so that was pretty exciting to see, especially on ice.
SJ: Do you think this would make a good annual event?
LR: Definitely. We’re always looking for signature events for this area and I think the Ho-Drags on Ice will definitely fit that bill.
More photos of the event in our community photo gallery at the bottom of this web page.
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