Snowmobilers, family dedicate ride to collectorMark Tuominen loved all snowmobiles, but his passion was for vintage ones. The Fish Lake Classic Snowmobile Challenge on Saturday was held in his honor, after he died this month at age 42.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
Mark Tuominen loved all snowmobiles, but his passion was for vintage ones.
He collected them. He bought and sold them. He restored them. Polaris, Northway, Scorpion; he loved them all.
Six hundred sleds filled his yard in rural Virginia.
“What other people saw as junk was treasure to him,” said his wife, Sandra Tuominen.
If people needed an old part for a vintage machine, he was the guy they called.
“This man was amazing,” his wife said. “If somebody called him up and said, ‘Do you have a part?’ it was inventoried in his mind. He could go exactly where that sled was and pull it off.”
Getting the old sleds out and riding them was part of the fun. So the couple planned their Las Vegas vacation so they would be back in time for the Fish Lake Classic Snowmobile Challenge on Saturday on Fish Lake in rural Duluth.
But in Las Vegas on Valentine’s Day, Mark Tuominen unexpectedly suffered a massive stroke. He died two days later at age 42.
Sandra Tuominen and their three children — Christian, 14, Angelia, 10, and Arthur, 8 — decided to take the 20-mile ride as planned in his honor.
“It was what he was,” Sandra said. “He would have wanted us to do it.”
Joining them were about a dozen family members, some also riding Mark’s beloved vintage sleds.
“It’s going to be hard to be there without him,” Sandra said before the ride, “but it is what he would want us to do.”
When word of the family’s ride in Mark’s memory reached event organizers, they decided to dedicate the entire ride to Mark.
The event, now in its 12th year, has gotten bigger each year. Event organizer Steve Wick calls it the “Grandma’s Marathon of Fredenberg Township.” About 500 vintage sleds from the 1960s and 1970s were expected this year, about 100 more than last year.
Part of the charm of the old snowmobiles is they could go all day on five gallons of gas. They went slower, and people would stop along the way, Wick said.
With modern machines, everybody is rushing from Point A to Point B so fast it takes a lot of the fun out, he said, noting that one can see more going 20 mph than 60 mph.
With some of the snowmobiles being pulled out of storage for the annual event, some don’t make it far in the challenge, Wick admitted.
“We see some that don’t make it out of the parking lot,” he said. “Still, people are happy. Their machines break down, and they still got a smile on their faces.”
That, too, sounds like Mark Tuominen.
“He hated gloomy moods,” his wife said. “When people were down and sad, he’d do something silly. He’d sacrifice his dignity, just to lighten the mood.”