Every year, the Saskatchewan Provincial Festival is hosted by a different community. The funds raised through the event get funneled back into that community to enhance the riding experience and help clubs maintain trails, upgrade their equipment and more. In 2018, Kelvington, Saskatchewan, will welcome hundreds of riders to its beautiful backyard.
The Kelvington Trailblazers’ riding area encompasses 456 kilometres of trail with the bulk of the trail system located in the Porcupine Provincial Forest. Their club consists of 44 members plus volunteers and two full-time employees who groom and clear trails. The trails are diverse and take riders through beautiful forest, prairies and lakes.
Bart Hartl is the president of the Kelvington Trailblazers and also sits on the board of directors for the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association (SSA). He is thrilled their club gets to host the provincial festival on February 23 and 24, 2018. They are expecting about 250 riders from all over Saskatchewan and a few out-of-town riders from Manitoba and Alberta.
“People will be able to go riding wherever they want on our trail system,” said Hartl. “It’s such a large riding area, people have multiple options. It’s a nice safe ride because you can go anywhere you want and see something you may not have seen before. You can meet new people or meet up with old friends and not feel crowded on the trails. It’s great that every year you get to check out a new place to ride with the provincial festival.”
The provincial festival starts on Friday at the Kelvington Community Legion Hall with registration and cocktails, a pulled pork supper, live entertainment and bucket draws. On Saturday, riders get a pancake breakfast and receive a bag lunch, then can head out and do self-guided or guided trail rides. Following a day of riding, there will be a banquet featuring a hot roast beef dinner, awards, live music and a 50/50 draw, along with a shuttle service so no one has to worry about driving back to their accommodations.
“It’s going to be a great event,” said Hartl. “We have 14 warm-up shelters on the trail system so riders can just show up to any one of them on the Saturday with their food and beverages, have a wiener roast and have an enjoyable time.”
Snowmobile clubs in the province receive funding from Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) through riders snowmobile plates; 100 per cent of the funds get dispersed back to the clubs. For the Kelvington Trailblazers, these funds cover about 50 per cent of the operating costs of maintaining trails. The rest of the funds needed are raised through events such as poker derby rides. For the Kelvington Trailblazers, to be chosen as the host city for 2018 for the provincial festival means they can finally get some of the bucket list items they need.
“We have groomers for our trails as well as wide-track snowmobiles and other equipment to establish and maintain our trail base,” said Hartl. “But as a club, we don’t have any place to store them. So this year, with all the fundraising we are doing, we want to take that money and use it to build a shop where we can store this equipment year-round. Storing these machines outside in the summer and winter is causing damage and to fix these pieces of equipment costs tens of thousands of dollars. Being able to store them and have a place to fix them in the winter will be great.”
The club has recently acquired property within Kelvington city limits and hope to raise enough money this year to proceed with building the shop and storage on that property.
“We’d rather use the public dollars to maintain our trail system and put the money back into the trails themselves for everyone to enjoy, instead of using that money to just fix equipment,” Hartl said. “We are always trying to find ways to best utilize the public dollar to get it back to them and maintain a safe riding environment for families.”
Hartl has been snowmobiling since he was eight years old and loves to ride with his wife and three kids, who all have their own machines. He’s been on the Kelvington Trailblazers board for about eight years with seven of those as president. He’s also spent five years on the SSA board. Needless to say, the man has a passion for snowmobiling and everything that comes with it.
“The club is always looking for ways to give back to the community,” said Hartl. “The easiest way to do that is through tourism and bringing people into our communities. When we have events like the Saskatchewan Provincial Festival, riders and their families are spending dollars on hotels, meals, shopping and other things, which is great for everyone.”
To register for the 2018 event or to find out more, visit the festival website.