ELLSWORTH -- The smell of burning wood, warmth of a fire, music and conversations filled the Rush River Trail Riders clubhouse this weekend.

The snowmobiling club held its annual Snow Day on Saturday.

The public was invited to hang out in the clubhouse, check out the vintage snowmobile show, view snow sculptures, enjoy some refreshments and ride the trails. Door prizes were handed out, raffles were drawn and vintage snowmobile awards were given out.

Rush River Trail Riders also awarded a scholarship to Ellsworth High School senior Leah Pieper. She has been a club member all 17 years of her life. For her the club is like a “second home.”

“What makes it a home for me, isn't the building itself, but the people,” Pieper said in a speech just before accepting the scholarship.

Pieper spoke about the memories she created while there and thanked her friends, family, club members and scholarship committee.

The money for the scholarship is raised by the club from events like Snow Day. The club has given away around $9,000 in scholarships, according to Kathy Birkel scholarship committee member. This year's scholarship is for $2,000.

Pieper will be attending Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, and is thinking about studying environmental science.

“I hope to do some snowmobiling out there too,” Pieper said.

Pieper has volunteered over 50 hours to the club, including mowing the club lawn, assisting with snowmobile safety, building snow sculptures and helping with the coloring contest.

Leah Pieper, an Ellsworth High School Senior was awarded the club's annual scholarship. Pieper says the club is her "second home." Ashley Rezachek/RiverTown Multimedia
Leah Pieper, an Ellsworth High School Senior was awarded the club's annual scholarship. Pieper says the club is her "second home." Ashley Rezachek/RiverTown Multimedia

Snow Day has been hosted by the club for about the last 10 years, according to John Janisch, volunteer and one of the club’s founders.

Janisch estimates 500 to 600 people attended this year's event.

“I would say they’re from a 100-mile radius, Red Wing, Bay City, Maiden Rock, up around the Hudson area, New Richmond area too,” Janisch said.

Visitors mingled while scoping-out the vintage snowmobiles with some models going as far back as the 1960s. Awards were given to owners of original and restored snowmobiles in a number of classes as well as a People’s Choice award and Best in Show. Minis, customs and cutters were among some of the classes. Janisch guessed around 300 machines were present.

In the afternoon, engines roared and smoke rose from the machines as many riders headed toward the 10-mile trail ride.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the club. The club will be having an anniversary event in March, as that is when the group first met in 1970. The club also hosts euchre tournaments every second Friday of the month through March at 6:30 p.m. as a way to raise funds for various expenses. The next one is set for Feb. 14 .

The clubhouse’s land includes one acre, which was donated by Willie Janisch and his wife, Barb, one of the club’s original members and Janisch’s brother.

There is about 40 families in the club, a club which handles about 200 miles of trails, according to Janisch.