NORTH ADAMS -- Flying snowmobiles under a warming sun wowed a crowd that approached 2,000 by early afternoon Saturday at the first ever pro snocross racing event in Berkshire County.
Professional snowmobile racing teams from around the Northeast gathered in the snow fields of The Range, a miniature golf course and driving range on Curran Highway, while crowds surrounded the track, which was sculpted from piles of man-made snow.
Andre Patenaude accompanied his sons, leading snocross racers Leo and Hunter, from their home in Hartland, Vt. The Patenaude boys have been swapping the top spot in the pro lite class. After this race, the Patenaudes will hit another in central New York, then head to Wisconsin for more, said the patriarch.
"We grew up racing and riding these sleds," Hunter Patenaude said on his way to the next heat. "Not a lot of people can say they race snocross."
Meanwhile, the hometown team, sponsored by Southside Sales on Curran Highway, was in the thick of the competition with the Gaspardi name ringing out of the PA system as Bruce Gaspardi Jr. jockeyed for position during his rattling runs through the race course.
Snocross racers ride modified snowmobiles that can exceed 80 miles per hour and hit 30-foot-high jumps to fly nearly 140 feet through the air. All told, there were 13 teams and about 100 professional snocross riders, along with their pit crews and support staff, competing for points in the East Coast Snocross racing circuit.
Amid the roar of snocross engines and the amplified voice of the announcer, lines of spectators picked their way through puddles of slush and mud -- resulting from melting snow and Friday’s spate of rain -- to find a viewing spot for the races.
Kaycie Parker, of Dalton, was there with her husband and two daughters, 4 and 7, to see the races.
"We all ride -- we grew up with it," she said. "So it’s nice that they came here to race locally. It’s nice to have something different to do."
Aaron Rogers and Adrienne Chiorgno came in from Pownal, Vt., to watch the racers.
"We’ve been to the races in Lake George," Rogers said. "But usually the races don’t come this close. So we figured we’d try it out."
Jamie Zdon and Peter Greenbush, the principals of event host MVP Promotions, said they were pleased with the turnout.
Most of the parking was filled and another shuttle bus had to be brought in to bring in all the arriving spectators.
"We’re extremely happy with the turnout," Zdon said. "But what we’re really happy about is that the hotels and restaurants will be packed tonight."
East Coast Snocross racing will continue today. The gates open at 10:30 a.m., and racing ends at about 4 p.m.
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If you go ...
n What: East Coast Snocross racing event
n When: 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. today
n Where: The Range on Curran Highway
n Cost: $20 per person; free for kids 7 and under
n Parking: Shuttle buses will transport spectators to the course from parking lots at the former North Adams Plaza, Air Tight Holding, McCann High School, North Adams skating rink, and Joe Wolf Field.
n On the Web: www.eastcoastsnocross.com or on Facebook at The Range by MVP Promotions