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Racing History Set to Repeat Itself at Woodstock, NB

They say, “History often repeats itself,” and this snowmobile event only took 43 years to prove it. Over New Brunswick’s Family Day Weekend, February 17-18th 2024, snowmobile ice oval racing will return to its former site.

Oval Ice Racing – Family Day Weekend

New Brunswick’s Family Day weekend will host two days of snowmobile ice oval racing at Connell Park Raceway. The raceway and grandstand are within Connell Park in the Town of Woodstock.

Instead of horse racing which takes place annually from early June until September, snowmobile racers are invited to show what their machines are capable of on the 1/2 mile flat oval horse racing track this winter.

The goal: attracting racers, spectators and sponsors from the Maritimes, Ontario, Quebec and the New England States. Mid-February 2024 should bring us the best possible ice conditions winter has to offer. If you want to see the return of this iconic snowmobile event in Woodstock, start planning your trip today!

Historical Times – Maritime Snowmobile Championships

There has not been a snowmobile ice oval race on this very track since the winter of 1981. Back in the day, the races were known as the Maritime Snowmobile Championships.

Those snowmobile races were organized by the Woodstock Y’s Men’s Club. The first race was hosted in 1967. As the memory of the individuals still here with us today can attest, the Woodstock Y’s Men’s Club and Connell Park Raceway hosted races for the next 15 consecutive years. The very last Maritime Snowmobile Championship ran in the winter of 1981.

The crowds grew over time, expanding at the same rate as the uptake in popularity of snowmobiling across the snow belts during the 1970s. It is estimated the Maritime Snowmobile Championships at Connell Park attracted as many as 5000 to 7000 attendees at its peak. Spectators completely filled the Connell Park Grandstand, and pooled around the racetrack and on the “side hill.”

This annual winter event did not go unnoticed outside of the province. It attracted the attention of the snowmobile factory teams. Renown and famous racers from this era were also compelled by the events. To only name a few, Van Dolder’s The Flying Dutchmen race team from Ontario, as well as Gilles Villeneuve from QuĂ©bec visited Woodstock for the Championship. As many know, Gilles went on to become Canada’s most famous auto racer. From his snowmobile successes, he then spent six years Formula One racing for Ferrari, winning six Grands Prix in his lifetime.

Oh, How Times Have Changed! – Cigarettes Sponsors in the 1970s

Throughout the 1970s, the major sponsors were cigarette companies which were incredibly prevalent at the time. Mark Ten, Belvedere and Rothmans cigarette brands all sponsored and partnered with the Y’s Men’s volunteers to promote their products throughout the event. You can imagine the 2024 sponsors will be of slightly different natures!

Lynn Avery - Credits Maritime Snowmobile Championship Races
Lynn Avery – Credits Maritime Snowmobile Championship Races

Recent History

In the autumn of 2022, half a dozen snowmobile enthusiasts began meeting in Woodstock, over homemade pizza. While they knew they were on to something trying to revive this piece of history, they were aware they were going to need more partners, bodies and resources to make it happen. They committed to begin the revival and planning of a new Championship in the summer of 2023.

While decades had passed since the last snowmobile raced around Connell Park Raceway, the enthusiasm, interest and support to revive the races had not subsided.

At the very first meeting in late summer of 2023 the now expanded group of volunteers, community members and snowmobile leaders decided on race dates. They also very quickly agreed upon a similar, but slightly new name: Maritime Snowmobile Championship Racing.

The newly formed MSCR is actively seeking a title sponsor for the race weekend. In the future, the races will be known as the ‘Sponsor’s’ Maritime Snowmobile Championships. The organizing committee will retain the MSCR moniker.

Woodstock, N.B. – Snowmobile Proud

This small western New Brunswick Town has a long history – decades – of being a very important cog in the snowmobile industry.

Eastern Marketing

Eastern Marketing, whose head office was based in Woodstock, was the eastern Canadian distributor of Arctic Cat snowmobiles for a long period of time. When Arctic Cat came back from bankruptcy with their 1984 models, they needed a method to gain a foothold in the Canadian market. Eastern Distributing of Woodstock was born and became somewhat of a second factory for Arctic Cat until approximately 1996.

Woodstock Trailmakers Snowmobile Club

Another important player in Woodstock’s snowmobiling history, the Woodstock Trailmaker’s Snowmobile Club will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2024. The club was founded in the spring of 1974 by main volunteers Merlin Gibson, Ed Purvis, Bob Draper and Charlie Matthews. Their project was fuelled by the desire from snowmobilers and snowmobile dealers to gather and exchange.

Merlin Gibson recently stated that “the Woodstock Y’s Men’s Club was looking for a fundraiser event. Snowmobiling was becoming popular, so we began the races to raise money for our cause. The money raised from the Maritime Snowmobile Championships; we used it all those years to help the youth in our community.”

Snowmobile New Brunswick / Motoneige Nouveau-Brunswick

Snowmobile New Brunswick / Motoneige Nouveau Brunswick was previously known as the New Brunswick Federation of Snowmobile Clubs from 1982 until 2021, and has been around for 42 years. When the NBFSC Board of Directors hired their first staff in the early 1990s, a provincial office was established in Woodstock, where it remains to this day.

This February’s event, based on the rich heritage and success of the former event, has the potential to be the single largest annual event of any kind in New Brunswick’s western River Valley.

If you are interested in supporting the success of this iconic, historic, yet new and refreshed event, please contact their team via e-mail at [email protected] or by calling Kendall Leech @ 1-506-325-8279 and/or Twyla Rogers @ 1-506-324-3145.

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