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The crowd at Haydays!

The crowd at Haydays!

What’s 49 years old? Packed with close to 50,000 arm-to-arm people? Spread out over 30 acres? And billed as the official start of winter?

The world’s largest snowmobile event — Haydays in North Branch, Minnesota!

I’ve been at a lot of events and I’ve never seen so much energy and enthusiasm squeezed into such a small, well, okay when you’re walking it even at 70 degrees, large, space. Sure, I’d seen the list of exhibitors and have been at a few swap meets in my time, but nothing prepared me for sheer enormity of Haydays this year.

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While nobody has ever told me where the name hay days comes from, I’ll venture a guess that it was from racing snowmobiles on the grass or hay instead of snow or ice.

Originally held later in the fall, it’s now scheduled for the first weekend after Labor Day, so you can start planning now to attend the big Haydays birthday party in 2016.

The event grew up around snowmobile drag racing. Back in the 1960s, sleds were a lot less, shall we say–technologically advanced–than they are today.

Then, the field was full of snowmobiles like the Snojets, John Deeres, Mantas, and well, any of another 100 or so brands belching out two-stroke engine oil smoke and roaring through non-existent mufflers. It was the peak of snow machine madness.

Swap Meet at Haydays

Swap Meet at Haydays

Today, you can still see some of these vintage sleds in the Swap Meet. With 2000 (sold out!) spots for swappers, there’s just about anything you can imagine for sale. By the number of sleds and tracks and hoods and other assorted parts being transported out on small ATV pulled trailers, it looked to me like a pretty brisk marketplace.

With so many snowmobile enthusiasts in attendance, Haydays draws vendors from around the midwest. We were shopping for new skis, so worked our way around the exhibits the first round talking to knowledgeable exhibitors. The grounds, while outdoors, were labeled and organized the same as you’d find in an exhibition center. It was easy to find everyone.