Badger State Games torch run stops at Tomahawk Sports Center
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
TOMAHAWK – The Badger State Games torch run made a stop at Tomahawk Sports Center on Thursday, Jan. 14.
The Badger State Games, “Wisconsin’s Olympic-style, multi-sport festival for all ages and skill levels” held annually in Eagle River, usually features a Snowmobile Torch Ride that makes its way from central Wisconsin to the event. However, this year’s version of the ride was slightly different.
Gary Hilgendorf of Tomahawk Sports Center said due to snow conditions, the run was done with trucks hauling snowmobile trailers.
“Everyone still had a good time,” Hilgendorf stated.
Nick Ockwig, Director of the Badger State Games, said the two-day Truck Torch Ride that took the place of the snowmobile journey actually had some upside.
“It ended up working out really well this year because we ended up visiting more locations and having more stops than we would have if we would’ve been on snowmobiles,” Ockwig noted.
The two-day adventure involving over a dozen snowmobile clubs, four counties, and more than 200 miles started in Wausau on Thursday, Jan. 14 and headed north, making stops in Merrill, Tomahawk, Minocqua, Woodruff, and Arbor Vitae. On Friday, Jan. 15, the torch passed through Sayner, St. Germain, Sugar Camp and Three Lakes before making its final stop at the Badger State Games in Eagle River.
At each stop, one snowmobile club passed the torch to another. Clubs involved in the run included the Trailmates, Wisconsin Valley Sno Jets, Knight Owls, Northwoods Passage, Northern Trails Unlimited, Minocqua Forest Riders, Northern Lights, Barnstormers of Sayner, St. Germain Bo-Boen Snowmobile Club, Sugar Camp Survivors, Three Lakes Brule River Trails Snowmobile Club, and Sno-Eagles Inc.
The stop at Tomahawk Sports Center saw the passing of the torch from the Northwoods Passage Snowmobile Club to the Knight Owls Snowmobile Club. Representatives from the Tomahawk Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs, as well as State Senator Mary Felzkowski, were on hand.
Tomahawk Sports Center was the official Badger State Games snowmobile sponsor and provided brand new 2021 Ski-Doo snowmobiles for the run.
“They actually had zero miles on them,” Ockwig noted.
Ockwig and Russ Davis, owner of the World Championship Snowmobile Derby complex in Eagle River, where the snowmobile derby races are held, worked together to make the torch run to the Northwoods happen. Davis participated in the very first torch ride from the Capitol steps in Madison to Wausau in 1989, Ockwig noted.
During the Friday night opening ceremonies of the championship derby races, the torch was carried by snowmobile around the track before lighting the giant Badger State Games cauldron, “ala the Olympics,” Ockwig stated.
Ockwig said the torch run’s purpose is two-fold: bringing exposure to the Badger State Games, and “snowmobiling; what snowmobiling means to Wisconsin and tourism.”
Ockwig said he and others involved with the Badger State Games are already looking forward to 2022’s run.
“Hopefully we can ride snowmobiles from Wausau and kick off year 33 of the winter games next year,” he stated.