For only the third time in 18 years, the Fort Frances team lost the annual “Snowshoe Challenge” to International Falls as part of Ice Box Days festivities Friday evening across the river at Smokey Bear Park.
“We took home the trophy, took it south,” Falls Mayor Harry Swendsen boasted Monday morning. “It’s only the third time we’ve ever got it.”
Mayor Swendsen stressed no skullduggery was involved in his team’s victory, which he claimed he was more than a little surprised by.
“I think they tripped and lost a snowshoe near the end,” he recalled. “They were actually practising a little before the race—we sure didn’t.
“The fact there wasn’t much snow, we think that made a difference,” added Mayor Swendsen. “We usually have a lot more. We’ll have to make sure it’s the same way next year.”
The Falls team included Mayor Swendsen, police officer Willy Kostiuk, city administrator Dave Richards, and Couns. Gail Rognerud and Brian Briggs. The team was coached by Coun. Shawn Mason.
“We came second,” said Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, who coached this year’s Fort Frances team. “It wasn’t for a lack of trying, though. We trained but apparently it wasn’t enough.”
The Fort Frances team sported Coun. Struchan “the Strider” Gilson, George “The Forge” Bell, Pat “The Passer” Hickerson, Darryl “Bin Allan win,” Bill “Way to Go, CAO” Naturkach, and Glen “Tough Win” Treftlin.
Mayor Witherspoon said the town is taking a “don’t look back” perspective on the loss.
“Starting in July, we’ll start the qualifiers for the softball challenge. We’ll probably see some lineup changes for that one,” he remarked.
The spirit of fierce cross-border competition aside, Mayor Witherspoon noted the event was “fun” and the relay challenge exemplified “good camaraderie.”
But Mayor Swendsen wasn’t so sure. “I’m a little nervous they’re going to get even at the softball challenge this summer. You’ll never know what they’ll do,” he remarked.
Mayor Swendsen also noted it was “a really great weekend for Ice Box Days, which included other events like the “Polar Bear Dip,” smoosh races, bridge, dart, and cribbage tournaments, turkey bowling, a chili coo-off, a snow sculpture contest, and the “Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run.”
He added a bonfire at Smokey Bear Park helped the crowd and the teams keep warm Friday evening.