Mild weather helps sled race draw big crowd

Becky Vargo • Feb 1, 2016 at 8:00 AM


Editor’s Note: Due to a production error, this story didn’t run in Monday’s Grand Haven Tribune.

Cheeseburger in Paradise and the Busch six-pack won the Top of the Hill awards following the Winterfest Cardboard Sled Race on Saturday at Mulligan’s Hollow.

“We don’t focus on the go-fast winners,” said organizer Melissa Heyer of event sponsor Coldwell Banker Woodland-Schmidt. “We want people to be creative and have a good time.”

The winners of the most creative sled — Cheeseburger in Paradise — dressed in tropical attire to accompany the giant burger topped with a palm tree.

The John Beer tractor took the Vogue award and Winnebago had the most spirited riders.

Co-workers Don Fueslein and Duane Schroeder came up with the idea for the tractor, a play on the John Deere brand.

“It was Duane’s idea,” Fueslein said. “He had leftover paint from last year’s dragon. We did the tractor so we could use up the paint.”

Riding on the tractor with them were Doug Kendrick and Patrick Ryskamp.

Photos from Saturday’s races

Video from the Cardboard Sled Race

Nearby, Joyce Tiles, Shelley Smart and Lisa Hinrichs-Hodgini mugged for the camera as Three Blind Mice.

“It’s the boys against the girls this year,” one of the “mice” said, nodding toward the tractor.

Waiting for a chance to go up the hill were the riders of a tasty-looking sled dubbed the Chili Dog Special. Great Lakes Chili Dogs owner Steve Dutmers said he wanted to celebrate 25 years in business, so his friend, Bob Franklin, volunteered to put the sled together.

Franklin, a longtime cardboard sled racer, created a pink Cadillac and a Viking ship for previous Winterfests.

Isabelle Beckerich of Fremont said her family has participated in the Cardboard Sled Race the past three years and had a Back to the Future sled last year. She and her husband, Richard Labbe, helped their sons — Quentin, 19, and Ilann, 8 — maneuver their Batmobile to the inspection area. Ilann, in his first race, dressed as Batman, while his older brother said he was Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s butler.

A crew from the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety lined up with a fire truck sled in front of Coast Guard Station Grand Haven’s lifeboat. GHDPS administrative assistant Erin VonTom pointed out the pictures of a Coast Guard boat and the station’s senior chief in the fire truck’s rear-view mirrors.

“That’s all this race is about — friendly competition because they beat us in Waterball,” she said.

The Coast Guard crew made it downhill a lot faster than the fire truck on the two runs participants are guaranteed.

The firefighters then challenged the Coast Guard to a grudge match, which was the final race of the day. Although the firefighters tried to position their truck in front of the boat, the Coast Guard prevailed, running roughshod over the fire truck with the help of their senior chief, who ran out on the hill from the crowd.

Heyer said there were 83 adult sleds and 51 children entries in Saturday’s race.

“This is the most we’ve had in many years — probably due to the incredible winter,” she said. “It was an awesome crowd. It was definitely a bigger crowd than we’ve had in years, and we love it.”

Jack and Elizabeth Potter said the Loutit District Library team had the fastest sled on the hill that day. Its riders were Laura Kraly and Allison Boyer.

“This is our fifth year,” said Elizabeth, who works for the Grand Haven library. “So, we’ve been learning more each year.”

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