Editor’s note: The History of the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association Ride-In for Easter Seals was written in 1986 by Dave Mayhew and Willard Pike.
Origins of the New Hampshire Ride-In for Easter Seals
Our Annual Ride-In to benefit handicapped children evolved from the fundraising event of February 1970 held by the Southern New Hampshire Snow Slickers of Manchester. $154.81 was raised and donated to the Easter Seal Society. A similar project was held the following year with the S-KI-MOS of Salem co-operating with the New Hampshire Sno-Slickers. This 1971 project generated $420 for the Easter Seal Society.
It was learned by our Board of Directors from the Easter Seal Society that a “Pony Express” type Ride-In program had been conducted in the Midwest. Solicitations for funds were made on horseback with riders even riding right into saloons at times. All proceeds were then carried to a central point and turned over to the Easter Seal Society to benefit handicapped children.
The thought was presented that a similar program might be initiated in New Hampshire using snowmobiles to bring funds raised or solicited by clubs to a central point, also to benefit handicapped children through the Easter Seal Society.
NHSA Board Approves
The thought was well received by our Board of Directors and a committee of John Dunlap of Moultonboro, Leonard Arkerson of Dover, Richard Daniels of Hinsdale and Dr. Lee Eastman of Lancaster was appointed to study the feasibility of such an undertaking. Their report was overwhelmingly favorable. It was felt that such a project would not only extend the Easter Seal Society’s efforts but would also improve the image of the Snowmobiler.
1973 in Meredith New Hampshire
Time did not permit proper organization for 1972, so March of 1973 was set as a target for our first Ride-In. Arrangements were made to hold it at Leavitt Park in Meredith. It was decided that each club would select three members to ride with funds to the central point, Meredith.
Different clubs had different methods of selecting their three representatives. All members were encouraged to trailer their machines to Meredith and take part in activities at the focal point. Many members not selected as club representatives were disappointed that they could not ride by snow machine from their club headquarters as their club representatives were doing. As a result the idea of limited club riding was discontinued and all were encouraged to ride the various distances by snow machines.
Largest Donation in History of New Hampshire Easter Seal Society
This initial annual event generated over $5,000. This was the largest single donation up to that time in the 37 year history of the New Hampshire Easter Seal Society.
The largest donation was from The Hummers of Harrisville with a total of $614. Rockingham was the largest County donor with $1,684 contributed by their clubs.
At the annual meeting of the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association in April of 1973 it was voted to have another Ride-In for Easter Seals in 1974, which would be open to all snowmobilers, and it will be held at a much larger sight. John Dunlap and Leonard Arkerson were selected as co-chairmen.
They selected The Margate on Paugus Bay in Laconia as the Headquarters and the Belknap Snowmobilers of Laconia as the host club.
First Grand Parade in Laconia
In connection with the 1974 Ride-In in Laconia, program booklets were printed made possible by the support of our advertisers. Through the efforts of Leonard Arkerson nationally known country and western bands and vocalists entertained the Saturday afternoon of the Ride-In weekend.
On Sunday our first Grand Parade was held on Paugus Bay. This was followed by the giving of awards to the top club and county donations.
Belknap Snowmobilers Trophy Tradition
The Belknap Snowmobilers donated a rotating trophy to the club turning in the largest donation. The S-KI-MOS of Salem captured this with a total of $500. The Meredith Sno-Streakers also donated a rotating trophy to be awarded to the county bringing in the largest amount. This was won by Rockingham County with $2,289 total from their collective clubs.
It was established that any club or county winning their respective trophy three years in a row would retire the trophy and a new one would be established by NHSA for the succeeding year. The Laconia Chamber of Commerce donated gold, silver and bronze medallions for the clubs finishing second, third and fourth in total donations. The total contributed in 1974 was $8,000.
3,000 Machines on Paugus Bay
In 1975 the NHSA Ride-In for Easter Seals in Laconia really blossomed with a grand total of all donations of $25,431. In Laconia there was an estimated 3,000 machines on Paugus Bay for the Grand Parade.
The Meredith Sno Streakers ran off with the top club trophy with a total of $1,847 turned in. Rockingham was again the highest county contributor and thus retired the first county trophy with a total of $4,759.
1976 saw an even further increase in total donations with a final count of over $31,000. The first souvenir patch had been designed and was available for purchase by those who actually rode in to The Margate.
The Twin Ridge Mountaineers of Goshen were the top club with $3,225 and Sullivan County beat-our Rockingham with $6,889 to take home the County trophy.
Two new trophies made their appearance this year. The Manchester Union Leader donated a trophy for the club riding the longest distance. This was tied for by the Hooper Hill Hoppers of Walpole and the Tri Town Trailblazers of the Alstead area. It was determined that they both rode a distance of 232 miles.
The New Hampshire Sunday News came up with the other trophy for the oldest rider. This was won by Howard Avery of Moultonboro and Concord at the age of 68.
North Conway Hosts in 1977
For 1977 we accepted the invitation of North Conway Chamber of Commerce to host our Ride-In. Headquarters were established at Barnaby’ for registration and deposit of donations with general headquarters set up at the Red Jacket Motor Lodge.
The North Conway Airport served as the site of the parade activities. This year saw a further increase in total donations with the Pittsburg Ridge Runners being the number-one club with a total of $2,713 donated and Coos County taking the top County trophy with a total of $8,375. The grand total was $33,731.
Governor Meldrim Thomson Attends
We were honored in 1977 to have Governor Thomson participate, joining a group of 24 riding from the Town and Country Motor Inn in Shelburne (the 1986 Headquarters). President and Mrs. Howard Lowell, Mr. and Mrs. Dore of the Presidential Range Riders of Gorham, leading the group. Paul Doherty, Director of Parks and Recreation, accompanied Governor Thomson.
Others in the group were George (Gus) Gilman, Commissioner of DRED, Frank Ferren, Coordinator for Snowmobiles for the State of Maine, Doug Eoute, Chief of the Bureau of Off Highway Vehicles, and Past President Catherine and Dick Dickson. It was necessary for Governor Thomson to leave the party at Evergreen Valley to catch a flight to Washington, D.C. Terry Berry of the Meredith Sno Steakers, 1977 Chairman, and Russ Cott of the Easter Seal Society met the group at Evergreen Valley and guided them into North Conway.
First Permanent Interstate Trail
The trail covered, partly in Maine and partly in New Hampshire, eventually became a part of the first permanent Interstate Trail which was dedicated on Sunday, January 8th, 1984. It is also interesting to note that Howard Lowell, who led the party in 1977 as President of the Presidential Range Riders, was again President in 1986, as the Range Riders were serving as host club for the 1986 Ride-In.
In 1978 we returned to The Margate and Paugus Bay but because of warm weather extreme caution was necessary and part of Lake Winnipesaukee would not be traversed without guides. Members of the Meredith Sno Streakers and Belknap Snowmobilers served as guides. Also, the number of machines allowed on Paugus Bay at one time for the Grand Parade was limited as a safety precaution. The total contributions dropped off slightly to $30,663.
Pittsburg Ridge Runners again brought in more than any other club with a trophy winning total of $3,910. Rockingham regained the top County Trophy with a total of $7,266. Riding from Montmagney, Quebec, Canada, the longest distance trophy with 536 miles, was won by the Newfields Sno Raiders, while Lucien Storrs of Contoocook, age 75, was the oldest rider. Again Jo Jo and his Clowns gave rides and otherwise entertained children being helped by the Easter Seal Society.
Ride-In Sponsors Summer Camp
At about this time many of our members who had visited Camp Easter Seal became endeared to this program and it was subsequently decided that we would point our full support in that direction.
Our project from that point on became “Ride-In for Camp Easter Seal.” It was felt that this would direct all of our funds to further help children right here in our own state rather than having some of the funds to the national program.
Pittsburg Ridge Runners and Rockingham County Dominate
The Margate and Paugus Bay were again chosen for 1979. While the Pittsburg Ridge Runners came in with an all-time high for a single club with $5,100 donated and thus retired the first rotating club trophy our total again dropped slightly to $29,741. Nevertheless, Rockingham County was able to continue its domination as top county contributor with $7,193.
The Can-Am Sno Travelers of Newfields had the longest ride of 1,231 miles and captured the appropriate trophy while Marshall Palmer, 77, of Plaistow took the oldest rider trophy. For the first time 10,000 trail markers for the 3,000 miles of state and club trails leading to Laconia were provided by the International Packing Corporation of Bristol
Once again we were at The Margate and Paugus Bay for our 1989 event. While we didn’t establish a new record, our total was again on the up-swing with $30,758 turned in. The Can-Am Sno-Travelers were the number-one club with a donation of $3,640. Rockingham County retired its second county trophy with a total county contribution of $8,117.
Jo Jo and his Clowns were honored at the 1980 affair with a plaque for the years they had entertained the Easter Seal children. Also at this Ride-In the program booklet was dedicated to Everett Coutermarsh, deceased, who was President at the time of the first Ride-in, and presented to Mrs. Coutermarsh.
1981 again saw us on the ice of Paugus Bay but our headquarters were set up at Christmas Island Motel (where NHSA was founded in April of 1969). Though our total for the year showed a substantial increase to $32,881 we didn’t establish a new record, missing by about $900. Can-Am brought in $6,383 to take top club honors again with Rockingham again taking top county honors with a total of $12,089. Can-Am Sno-Travelers rode the longest distance of 580 miles and Ed Bernier, age 46, and was the oldest making the ride.
Ride-In Held in Keene
For the first time we were invited to the Keene area in 1982 for our tenth anniversary Ride-In. Winding Brook Lodge was selected as our headquarters. We increased our total donations to $33,726 but still missed a new record by about $5. In recognition of our 10th anniversary Can-Am established a new individual club record with a donation of $10,000 and also retired the second club rotating trophy. Rockingham was again Top County with $17,795. Can-Am also captured the longest ride trophy with 635 miles covered. Elmer Heath of Warren captured the oldest rider trophy.
We returned to Winding Brook Lodge in Keene for 1983. We ran into a real weather problem that year. Snow was non-existent on the weekend of the Ride-In. The torch light parade which had become a tradition was still carried out by members walking and carrying torches. The Grand Parade was impossibility though we still had a great deal of enthusiasm among those who made the trip by car.
We saw a substantial drop in the total amount of contributions, falling off to $26,042. Can-Am was again the largest club contributor with $2,386 and Rockingham retired its second County trophy with $10,624 turned in. The Snow Finders, Inc. of North Hampton were determined as the club represented from the greatest distant and Elmer Heath from Warren was awarded the oldest rider trophy.
In 1984 we congregated in Littleton with the Continental 93 Motor Lodge serving as our headquarters. We again ran into unseasonable weather and poor riding conditions. We did have snow, however, and a large majority rode in by snowmachine but with extreme difficulties, especially over the last 20 miles or so. There was more snow in the southern part of the state than in the north that year.
Can-Am Club Tops in 1984
Also in 1984 Pizza Hut sponsored substantial prizes for the clubs making the larger donations. They have also furnished them every year since then. The previously high donation year was greatly exceeded with a total contribution from NHSA to Camp Easter Seal of $36,667.
Can-Am was again the number-one club with $6,004 and Rockingham again the number-one County with $14,202. Can-Am also again took the trophy for traveling the longest distance, 670 miles while Floyd Ray of Warren took the trophy for the oldest rider. The youngest riders were recognized this year with Jamie Rasp, age 7, and Brian Smith, age 9, riding 74 and 125 miles respectively. We were also honored to have our incumbent Governor John Sununu, join in our activities.
1985 we again returned to Littleton and the Continental 93 Motor Inn. We were blessed with ideal weather and excellent riding conditions. The Torch Light Parade was held in the field across the road but the Grand Parade on Sunday proceeded, for the first time, right through the center of town.
Snow had been stockpiled along the sidewalk and was plowed into the street at 4:30 a. m. on the day of the parade. It was well groomed and the parade was enthusiastically received by the thousands of spectators, many of whom had never had any contact with the sport of snowmobiling. Governor Sununu rode in with Doug Eoute and other state officials for our opening ceremonies. He also gave Brian Carr, the 1984 Easter Seal Poster Child a ride on his machine.
Fundraising Record for Easter Seals Ride-In
For the first time, in 1985, receipts exceeded $40,000 when we turned over for Camp Easter Seal $42,427, well beyond anyone’s expectations. Can-Am retired their second club trophy with a donation of $8,500 and Rockingham again went home with the High County trophy with an $18,395 total.
The Southern New Hampshire Trailblazers traveled the longest distance, 902 miles. For the third year in a row a member of the Asquamchumaukee Valley Snowmobile Club of Warren captured the oldest rider trophy. This year it was Arthur Alderman. Missy Livingston, age 5, travelled 98 miles to receive the trophy for the youngest rider in attendance.
It should be noted that we have had souvenir programs every year starting with 1974. These would not have been possible without the faithful support of our advertisers and friends.
It should also be noted that we have had souvenir patches for every Ride-In starting with 1976.
Incidentally if anyone has a complete set of souvenir programs and or patches they should consider themselves lucky for these are fast becoming collector’s items.
If anyone has any odd programs or patches they are willing to make available it would be appreciated if they would inform the NHSA office that they might be made obtainable by others seeking specific items to complete a set.
Coos County Hosts Ride-In
For 1986, for the first time ever, we were invited to Coos County to the Gorham-Shelburne area with the famous Town and Country Motor Inn to serve as Headquarters. The Selectmen, with Paul Doherty as spokesman, the Chamber of Commerce with Executive Director, Richard Day, setting on the committee and being a most helpful contact and “Navy Labnon, ” popular owner of the Town of Country being most receptive and cooperative we’re set for a grand weekend.
For the first time ever the Torch Light Parade, with new innovations this year, is set to go up Route 2 and through the heart of town as well as the Grand Parade on Sunday. The grand total of contributions of the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association through 1985 is $372,386.19 and it is anticipated by John Violette, Chairman for 1986, that we will go well over the $400,000 mark this year.
In closing we would like to quote from Past President Bart Witham’s “President’s Message” of February 1978:
“I fee1 that the New Hampshire Easter Sea1 Society is not the only one who benefits from the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association Ride-In. Have you ever stopped to think what this joint-statewide effort has done for you? Just think of the fantastic trail system that has been developed throughout the state. Aren’t you a bit closer to your club members working together in raising money for your donation? If you were able to attend the Ride-In weekend didn’t you have a good time? And most of all aren’t you able to hold your head a little bit higher when you point with pride at this outstanding year after year accomplishment? No, it’s NOT only Easter Seal that benefits.”
It is our hope as composers of this history that others will add to it in future years so there will continue to be a permanent record of all Ride-In’s.