Meadville Tribune

Local News

March 11, 2014

Races for good cause make for one 'Last Blast of Winter'

VERNON TOWNSHIP — In the 14-plus years since co-founding Project Support Our Troops, Kim Lengling has heard many stories from soldiers who have received care packages from the organization during deployments.

A few of those stories stand out, including one about a soldier who kept a Ty Beanie Baby he received in his helicopter at all times.

“One of his friends busted his chops and took the Beanie Baby, and he wouldn’t fly,” Lengling said. “We heard about it and sent him a whole bunch more.”

It’s something as simple as a Beanie Baby that can make the hours and days of deployment for a solider a little easier, Lengling said. But “without money, we can’t do anything,” she said.

Bill Kingzett, co-owner of AvalancheXpress, is doing his part to help out. He is taking on yet another endeavor at AvalancheXpress.

On Monday, Avalanche underwent modifications to prepare for its first “Last Blast of Winter” snowmobile drag races. The event is Friday and Saturday at Whispering Pines Golf Course.

Part of the proceeds will benefit Project Support Our Troops.

“Bill approached us and said, ‘Hey, I’m doing this. Do you want to be a part of it?’” Lengling said. “Of course we do.”

Kingzett has been juggling the idea of a snowmobile race for some time now, but he didn’t feel initially that AvalancheXpress had an ideal setup for such event.

“We don’t really have the space for going around circles with jumps and everything like that,” he said. “What we have is a straight up hill.”

After conversations with several snowmobile racing enthusiasts and veterans, it was determined that AvalancheXpress not only has the right conditions for drag racing, but unique conditions. It has snow. And even if temperatures should climb from now until Friday, there will still be snow.

“We haven’t had races around here in quite a while,” said Joe Orengia, owner of Orengia Landscaping in Erie and a snowmobile racing expert. “They seem to take place more in the Adirondacks. Around here we don’t seem to have many and the ones we do are on grass not snow.”

Orengia has been tabbed the race director and is in charge of handling the planning and logistics of the race. He said it will take some time to get everything in working order for the event, but he said expects it all to be in working order for the event.

“He’s pretty well ready,” Orengia said. “He has quite a bit of grooming to do yet. He has some snow to move and fencing to put up. He has a good facility. It’s just going to take a little bit of work to get it ready.”

The races are double elimination and will take place side by side up the hill for 450 feet. Friday night racers will have an opportunity to check in and register and also go through tech inspection and make test runs from 4 to 10 p.m. Registration is Saturday from 8 to 10 a.m. with racing to follow.

Test runs are $5 per run or $20 for unlimited runs.

The race is International Snowmobile Race sanctioned and will follow its guidelines. Classes available are Vintage Classes (trail stock, trail mod stock 700 CC and under, and stock leaf spring) as well as a Kitty Cat and 120 CC class, 500 cc and under, 600 cc and under, 700 cc and under, 800 cc and under and 1000 cc and under trail stock classes, 700 cc and under trail mod stock, and 4-stroke (non-turbos) into ISR Class.

The races mark the official end to what Kingzett said was a record-breaking season at AvalancheXpress. He feels this is a perfect way to close the books.

“You get to mid-March and you have a day like (last Friday) and people start thinking about spring,” Kingzett said. “Their minds get away from winter time activities regardless of our conditions. We just don’t draw the people now. This is a good way to end the snow tubing season.”

Lengling said T-shirts will be on sale at the event. All of those proceeds will benefit Project Support Our Troops.

“That is a big part of the equation and something we should do all the time,” Kingzett said. “I’ve been a big person who volunteers for different events and tries to give back to the community. It’s something we enjoy doing and I’m glad we can do those things.”

And it means a few more Beanie Babies and other goods can be sent along.

“We had one soldier tell us that to get a box from us was just a little bit of normalcy,” Lengling said. “In such a short sentence, that says a lot. To know it makes such a big impact ... you can’t fathom the difference it makes.”

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