International Snowmobile Hall of Fame - Eagle River, WI

A Detailed History of ISHOF

In 1986, the Hall of Fame was founded under the name of United States Hall of Fame. The idea came from Elmer William Cone. He devoted much of his time since the mid-1960s toward the building of snowmobile trails and preservation of other recreational resources. In 1978, Elmer was chairman of a committee, that formed the Itasca County Park and Recreation Department and his thoughts were to enhance and protect the future of our recreational resources. Along the way, he found that there were numerous citizens like himself, that devoted much of their time to help as volunteers. It takes a lot of dedicated time to plan, map out and engineer projects they believed in. When there were done with that, they had to present it to the government officials and the public. They would run into problems and objections including locating development funds to sustain the projects. What was so rewarding however is that they would not give up; It was something they believed in. They would find a way around problems to accomplish their goal.

One of the true stories of volunteerism is of snowmobile clubs and their membership, throughout the United States, Canada and Internationally. The Hall of Fame was formed to recognize these volunteers and others. Without these volunteers, snowmobiling would not be what it is today. Elmer recruited volunteers to help achieve the goal of the Hall of Fame. He first talked to Todd Driscoll, Paul Vanderlinde and Les Ollila because they worked with him on several recreational committees. They felt this would be a positive step to recognize these volunteers and others whom have devoted so much of their time to the development of trails, machines and organizations that have helped snowmobiling. Mr. John Weber, a volunteer attorney (also Elmer's corporate attorney), helped set up the organization. Volunteers were needed to serve on the board and Elmer enlisted Paul Vanderlinde, Les Ollila, Richard Beckner, Clem Lehrer and Allen Butterfield, all of whom were snowmobile enthusiasts along with John Roessler.

From 1986 to 1988, the founding board, along with cofounder Todd Driscoll, worked out details of how to present the Hall of Fame to snowmobilers. Also, at this time, it was agreed to change the name to the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame (ISHOF). During the Fall of 1988, a committee was formed of board members and local citizens to review the direction of the project. During the Summer of 1989, more positive steps were being taken and in the Fall other interested volunteers were recruited to serve on a committee. A goal was set for January 20, 1990 for the inaugural event to align chronologically with Vinterslass, a wintertime event in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Inaugural inductees were selected which, at the time, included board members Edgar Hetteen, Inventor; Ralph Plaisted, Explorer and C.J. Ramstad, Journalist.

The next step was to design an award.  The first awards were given out to inductees but were somewhat incomplete because the final design was not finished. Todd Driscoll was handling the awards along with with Ben McKnight, of Sharper Images who said he could not perfect the awards in the design style and timeframe that was requested. Time was running short so Todd and Elmer discussed the awards and the award design, ultimately deciding to take a flat chunk of ice and break it into pieces.  The final design of the awards would end up being the randomly shaped, smashed pieces of ice. From that quick discussion and relatively simple design process, the awards were made. During that time Mike, Mary and Michelle Ives worked hard at getting a banquet and other parts together along with the Sawmill Inn personnel. Itasca County VCB employees and Frank Allen, VCB Chairman, also assisted in working on organizing the event. The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce was very instrumental in helping organize, account for tickets and provide information to the public. Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce President Bill Kirwin was Emcee for the evening. The Grand Rapids Vinterslass employees and Volunteer Committee also worked at organizing the two events together. Tied into the event was the Minnesota North Star Games Torch Run by snowmobiles, sponsored by McDonald's.

January 20, 1990, the inaugural event, turned out to be a great success. A small biography of each inductee along with their picture, a list of sponsors and the program schedule identifying the Board of Directors was incorporated on a small pamphlet that was passed out at the ceremony. Planning began for a second inauguration with a date set for March 2, 1991. A policy format was set up for nominees and goals were set for ISHOF. The list of goals was: standardize a policy format for inductees, provide a souvenir magazine, provide a slate of activities, have ISHOF awards produced, place advertising and provide budget costs while acquiring funding for the following year's event.

Kathy Ahern of ISIA was contacted and worked with ISHOF by providing the names and addresses of all organizations and news outlets on file with them. Letters were sent out to all of the snowmobile organizations, requesting they present ISHOF a nominee for consideration as an inductee. The Board of Directors set a limit of five (5) inductees for the induction for 1991. A selection committee of ten (10) members from around the United States and Canada was organized to review and rate the nominee resumes, if more than five were received. The deadline for receiving the nominee's resumes was November 15, 1990.

In June 1990, the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame presented information about its event and purpose to the International Snowmobile Congress. This became an annual presentation along with providing news releases and other information to the public. The Illinois State Snowmobile Association donated a booth to help make the presentation of ISHOF at various events more attractive. The Board of Directors met monthly until October 1990, then every two (2) weeks to review progress. Shelly Brandstrom was very instrumental in organizing the progress of ISHOF, keeping records and contacting all organizations. Her employer allowed the use of their office equipment, computers, copier and FAX machine plus other equipment at no charge except for stamps, paper, etc. In 1991, Shelly Brandstrom was appointed to the position of Executive Secretary to the Board of Directors of ISHOF.

Elmer worked at locating funds for the ISHOF budget. Shelly, Elmer and wife, Margaret, Jay Miner and Northprint International personnel worked at preparing a souvenir brochure representing the 1990 and 1991 inductees, the induction program, Board of Directors and advertisements. This souvenir brochure was revised in 1992 so each inductee had their own page, with advertisers listed in the back. The brochure continued in this format until the year 2000. The new format had each year's inductees on one page with a condensed history with new inductees having a full page devoted to themselves.

Throughout the years, the Board of Directors has researched the feasibility of providing a "home" for the Hall of Fame. They have had many ideas, however, if the number one priority, sustainability, wasn't met, they would not follow through. A temporary "home" was found. The Swampsiders Snowmobile Club volunteered to allow the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame to display the portraits of the Members in their clubhouse. They recently have built an addition onto their clubhouse for a small museum displaying snowmobiles for the past and other snowmobile memorabilia. For more information on the hours and location of the Swampsiders Clubhouse, please contact the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame.

The International Snowmobile Hall of Fame conducted annual inductions at various locations in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. These inductions also included a groomer seminar that brought a score of groomers and trail drags to the event, a student safety poster contest, a landowner thank you party and concluded with a "Legends" trail ride, complete with vintage and classic sleds leading the way. The event usually fell on the calendar in the middle of a typical Minnesota snowstorm which guaranteed snow for the outdoor activities.

In the Summer of 2004, a group of dedicated snowmobilers in the Eagle River, Wisconsin area were looking to bring more attention and visibility not only to the Hall, but to other snowmobile-related groups and organizations. They searched for two (2) years for a place to achieve these goals before being able to purchase a 12,500 square foot building just 200 feet north of the famed Eagle River World Championship Derby Track. Located on a major highway, on a major snowmobile trail and close to the Derby Track, the facility became known as the World Snowmobile Headquarters (the "HQ") as it showcased several snowmobile groups and organizations.

Plans were being made to include the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame and to have the induction photo plaques duplicated for display in the Eagle River facility when the owners of the Swampsiders clubhouse notified the Hall that they had other plans for the clubhouse. Suddenly, the Hall no longer had a home in Bovey, Minnesota. With the grand opening of the Eagle River facility just a month away, all of the induction photo plaques were brought there and displayed on the walls of the HQ. Soon the HQ became known as the place to visit for snowmobile history with over 1600 visitors that first year. The Directors of the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame realized that moving the operation to Eagle River was in the best interest of the Hall.

On July 1, 2009 all functions, operations and future inductions of the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame were transferred to Eagle River, Wisconsin. A new Board of Directors was established combining some of the previous board members and some of the HQ board members. "Elmer Cone, the Cone family and all the board members of the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame have created and sustained the Hall since its inception. We are pledged to continue its service to the snowmobile industry and sport by recognizing and honoring those who have made the sport of snowmobiling Winter's premier recreation," stated Scott Eilertson, past President of the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame at that time.