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Ready! Sled! GO!

The Northland 300 starts and finishes at Superior Shores, just north of Two Harbors. This year’s opening ceremonies will take place at 8 a.m., Jan, 23. Photo courtesy of Northland 300.1 / 2
Dozens of snowmobile enthusiasts participate in the annual Northland 300, a three-day tour along trails throughout the region. The event is a fundraiser for Special Olympics.2 / 2

26th Annual Snowmobile Benefit for Special Olympics starts Thursday

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It’s time again for the Northland 300. Opening ceremonies for the three-day, 300 mile journey will take place starting at 8 a.m., Jan. 23 at Superior Shores Resort. The event will include the dedication of a new torch to past Northland 300 participant, Billy Meister, who lost his life while snowmobiling last February.

The new torch will be carried by Billy’s father, William “Pooker” Meister, along with a Special Olympian and fellow Northland 300 snowmobiler, Steven Eull. The pair will light the “Flame of Hope” on the new cauldron built by friends of the Northland 300. The race is an annual event that draws sledding enthusiasts and those with a connection to Special Olympics for the purpose of raising funds for special athletes. According to organizers, there’s no shortage of fun and activity for those who come to ride. Participants begin by committing to raise money before the event.

“We have about 70 participants this year and we keep them busy all day long,” said Event Director Kathy Karkula. “Participants pay $35 for a spot in the event and they must raise $700 each however they wish. They raise the money in all different ways; some may do a golf tournament or a chili cook off, or some just sell raffle tickets.”

A night time opening ceremony for the Ely area will take place at the Grand Ely Lodge on Friday, Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. Karkula said that while in Ely, participants will take part in a themed competition for best costumes and a host of other activities.

“We also will present the award of the “Bakers Dozen” for the 13 participants that have raised the most in donations,” she said, adding that one year a participant raised $13,000.

“Generally the event is able to bring in between $150,000 and $200,000 per year and all money goes into a fund so that our state tournaments will always be affordable to every participating athlete in the State of Minnesota,” she said. There are currently seven state tournaments per year.

The route will take riders north from Superior Shores to Pequam and Giants Ridge and Aurora. Then it’s on to Babbitt before heading to Ely. The return route from Ely will go through Isabella and the Yukon trail, concluding at Superior Shores just north of Two Harbors.