A new book about the glory days of snowmobile racing is scheduled to make its debut Aug. 3 with a book signing and vintage snowmobile show in Roseau, Minn., birthplace of Polaris.
Titled “Starfire Kids Midnight Blue Express,” the book by author Larry Preston tells the story of the racers who rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s as members of the Polaris racing team. They were household names in snowmobile racing circles, men such as Bob Eastman, Larry Rugland, Leroy Lindblad, Jim Bernat and Don Omdahl, and Preston tells their stories through interviews, press accounts and photos he collected over a period of about five years.
Growing up in Roseau during that time, I remember all of the racers Preston includes in his book. As grade school kids, we’d bring radios to school during the annual Winnipeg to St. Paul 500 cross-country snowmobile race so we could sneak in updates on the race proceedings.
I also remember crowds packing the grandstand at the Roseau County Fairgrounds on cold winter days to catch the annual “Sno Mo Cade” oval races and Polaris Thrill Team exhibitions.
This was big stuff back in the day. But as Preston mentions in his book, a tragic accident in the winter of 1978 ended the era of the Polaris racing team.
The official unveiling of “Starfire Kids Midnight Blue Express” will be held Aug. 3 at the Polaris Experience Center, located at 205 Fifth Ave. S.W. in Roseau. A vintage snowmobile show is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and several of the former Polaris racers will be signing autographs from 10 a.m. to noon.
I’ve only had a chance to read the first chapter of Preston’s book, but his passion for snowmobile racing in its heyday is obvious from the get-go. That’s not by coincidence, perhaps, because Preston’s grandfather, Herb Borah, was the original CEO of Polaris.
Preston, a software executive and founder of the website vintagesleds.com, said he wrote the book for a number of reasons.
“I was a huge fan as a kid,” he told me in an email, “and when I got to interview all these people all these years later, what emerged was a really great story that I think will have some appeal beyond snowmobile fans.”
More information on “Starfire Kids Midnight Blue Express” is available here.