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The Jack is back: Clear Lake snowmobile races will return with new name, format
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The Jack is back: Clear Lake snowmobile races will return with new name, format

From the North Iowa's most-read stories of 2019 series
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Riders from a youth race cross the finish line during the ninth annual Jack Helgren Memorial Race Saturday in Clear Lake.

Members of two area snowmobile clubs are taking over one of Clear Lake’s popular outdoor winter events.

The North Iowa Snow Seekers and Hancock County Snowmobile Association have assumed responsibility of the snowmobiling event previously known as The Jack Helgren Memorial Race that will operate under a new name and new format.

“We haven’t decided on a new name for the race, but an announcement will be made soon,” said Mindy Eastman, North Iowa Snow Seekers treasurer.

Organizers of The Jack Helgren Memorial Race announced on Facebook last week that after 10 years the two-day event that draws hundreds of individuals from the region to ride, race and show their snowmobiles would be discontinued because members of the original organizational group have decided to retire.

“We want to thank all of you who have supported us by sponsoring, volunteering, or participating in the event over the last 10 years,” the committee wrote. “It has been a great thing to see the old-fashioned racing and snowmobiling that Jack loved. We're so happy to see the appreciation for the vintage sleds, and racing being passed on to the younger generation that attended The Jack Race events.”

Gary McVicker, who was a founding member of the race, said he and his wife, of Hampton, were among about six individuals who decided it was time to retire from the race.

“We don’t want to see it go away because we put a lot into it, but it’s time for Karen and I to be done,” he said. “It turned into fantastic event.”

The memorial race was named after Jack Helgren, an area businessman, former snowmobile dealer and avid racer who died in 2009.

The event, also known as “The Jack,” featured snowmobile races, a vintage snowmobile show and live music, and it’s made possible each year by more than 50 volunteers.

The Jack Race 2019 (15).jpg

"The Jack" snowmobile race was held in Clear Lake Saturday, Feb. 9.

Eastman said the North Iowa Snow Seekers and Hancock County Snowmobile Association’s new event, which has yet to be named, has tentatively been set for Feb. 8, 2020.

It will be modeled after the annual Winter Olympus, or “Winter O.” The event featured a variety of activities, including snowmobile racing on the lake in the 1970s and 1980s.

“When Rusty (Peters) was a teenager, he remembers coming to Clear Lake for a snowmobile race, and being amazed at all of the other activities on the lake that day,” Eastman said. “Our ultimate goal is to use this race as a springboard to bring back a similar winter event for Clear Lake.”

Peters, who was on The Jack Race Committee for the past 10 years, is part of the group that’s taking over the new event.

Earlier this year, The Jack, historically scheduled in January, was postponed to February due to unseasonable temperatures and poor ice conditions that couldn’t accommodate the snowmobilers — and spectators — who not only race but park on the lake’s ice. It was the second time within the past three years the event had been postponed due to the weather.

Since The Jack started, it’s been able to donate proceeds to the Winnebago Honor Flight, Clear Lake Restoration Project, American Cancer Society, Clear Lake Chamber fireworks, Patriots for Pets, Opportunity Village and area snowmobiling organizations.

In 1965, Jack Helgren started North Iowa Tire Company and House of Sports, where he was in business for 44 years until his illness. His son John Helgren owns the House of Sports today.

Photos: The Jack Race 2019

Photos: The Jack Race 2018

Photos: The Jack Race: 2017

Photos: The Jack Race 2016

Reach Reporter Ashley Stewart at 641-421-0533. Follow her on Twitter at GGastewart.


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