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Weather dampens ATVers' turnout

A line of ATV riders begins a five-mile ride through Silver Bay on Saturday, June 23, 2012, in an effort to break the world record for longest ATV parade. Unofficially, 1,060 riders took part in the ride, falling short of the record. (Tom Olsen / for the News Tribune)

SILVER BAY -- The All-Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota spent an entire year planning an ATV parade through Silver Bay, and organizers promised it would go on rain or shine.

They weren't expecting a flood, though.

The ATVAM hoped to bring the Guinness World Record for the longest ATV parade back to Silver Bay on Saturday, but the unofficial total of 1,060 riders fell about 800 short of the record held by Richfield, Utah.

Organizers said the flooding and road closures along the North Shore earlier this week deterred many riders and may have cost them the record, but a dedicated group of riders made Silver Bay's third ATV parade a memorable experience.

"What happened in Duluth is really hurting us, but there's nothing we can really do about that," said lead organizer Les Schermerhorn. "We had a great turnout considering the situation."

Chris Brelie rode his ATV 30 miles from Two Harbors with about 50 other members of a local riding club. He described the trails along the way as "remarkable."

"It's good, dirty fun," he said. "The weather might have scared some people off, but we're having a blast."

Brelie's wife, Diane, and son, Scott, were attending their first parade and loving every minute of it.

"It's amazing how many people show up here," Diane Brelie said. "All the people who come together is what makes it so special."

Silver Bay Mayor Scott Johnson was happy to have the parade back in town, which receives a big economic boost from the added business at hotels, restaurants and stores.

"I'm glad ATVAM had the faith in us to come back for another year," Johnson said. "It's a pleasure to welcome the new people and see all the people who have been here before."

Riders came from as far away as Nokomis, Fla., to take the five-mile trek through the city's streets and ATV trails.

One rider dressed as a giant chicken, while another carried a sign saying "Save a horse, ride a 4x4." Some carried American flags, while others hauled the family pets.

Becky Jaegar, who was born and raised in Silver Bay but now lives near Elk River, Minn., was treating the parade as a reunion with family and friends.

"It's all about bringing people together and seeing people you haven't seen in a while," said Jaegar, who brought along her husband and three children, "and the kids love it, too."

Silver Bay, which is now 1-for-3 in its attempts to break the world record, previously held the record from June 2009 to September 2010.

An attempt in June 2008 brought 1,083 ATVs to the city, falling just 56 riders short of the world record at that time.

The ATVAM gave it another crack the next year and shattered the record with 1,632 participants, but it was short-lived.

Richfield, Minn., unseated Silver Bay when 1,870 riders took part in the annual Rocky Mountain ATV Jamboree in September 2010, and ATVAM officials have been eager to bring the title back to Minnesota ever since.

Still, organizers aren't fretting over the failed bid to take back the title.

"It's a friendly competition," Schermerhorn said. "(Utah) knows we're doing this today. Wisconsin and Kentucky are watching; they want the record. It really brings everybody together."

Schermerhorn said they will wait a month or so and decided whether to go after the record again next year.

"It takes a whole year to plan it," she said. "It takes a lot of planning and it's a huge time commitment, but it's all worth it in the end."