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COLUMN: Carillon Flashback February 13, 1974 – Snow Festival kicks off Steinbach’s Centennial

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Taking a page from Beausejour’s book on winter festivals hosted every March, Steinbach kicked off its 1974 centennial celebrations, with an event called “Fun in the Snow”, and like their neighbors to the north, a celebrity snowshoe race was a featured item during a full afternoon of activities at the community’s fair grounds.

The RM of La Broquerie reeve proved to be the outdoorsman in the group, stomping his way to victory over RM of Hanover Reeve John Harms, RM of De Salaberry Reeve Zeph Audet, and the rest of a field of seven area mayors and reeves.

“Voyageur” Lacoste, otherwise known as Reeve Rene Lacoste, loped over the finish line in an easy win to earn the title of ‘Snowshoe King of the Southeast’.

CARILLON ARCHIVES Winners of the mayors’ and reeves’ snowshoe race at Steinbach’s Fun in the Snow event were Reeve Zeph Audet, RM of De Salaberry, winner of the True Grit Award; RM of La Broquerie Reeve Rene Lacoste, who finished first and RM of Hanover Reeve John Harms, who was a close second.

Reeve Lacoste denied accusations after the race that he’d been on a special diet of Habitant pea soup for the last week, and had vigorously trained at a wilderness camp in the Marchand Lake area in preparation for the event.

Reeve Lacoste received a ‘gold medal’ and a pair of ‘Mennonite Moccasins’ from The Carillon for his win. Receiving the silver medal as second prize winner was Reeve John Harms of Hanover, who came from behind when Mayor Roger Smith of Ste Anne and several other entries wiped out, just before reaching the finish line.

Mayor A.D. Penner of Steinbach had been given a five-yard handicap for the embarrassment he had caused his community in 1970, for showing up on a horse for a mayors bicycle race, but claimed he had received permission from the premier to reduce that handicap to only one yard. Despite this and the fire-red thermal insulated racing suit he wore for the race, he again failed to get into the winners’ circle.

Winner of the True Grit Award, and the consolation prize of a fresh farmer sausage, was Reeve Zeph Audet of the RM of De Salaberry, who got tangled up in some fancy footwork, and fell during the early part of the race, but regained his feet and doggedly finished the race, albeit in last place.

The De Salaberry reeve accepted his ‘true grit’ award in good humour, thanked Steinbach’s centennial committee for inviting him to the event, and said he would now start practising in case he was ever invited to compete at Beausejour’s Winter Farewell.

While the mayors’ and reeves’ race was the highlight of the day there were a variety of attractions at Steinbach’s Fun in the Snow, which drew large crowds despite the cold.

Like Frank Klassen, who showed up sporting a buffalo coat, winter festival goers dressed for the occasion. Klassen provided horse-drawn sleigh rides during the afternoon and never complained about the cold, but later said he lost a few pounds hauling around that heavy coat all day.

A horse-drawn cutter and bobsleigh, along with snowmobile and dog sled rides, proved to be very popular with the crowd. Teams were provided by Isaac R. Loewen, Harold Unger and Frank Klassen, Ben B. Unger, Tony Sawatzky (cutter), and Henri Bremaud of La Broquerie.

Free coffee and hot chocolate were dispensed by the gallon, as people came to warm up at the bonfires and get away from brisk winds in around-zero temperatures. George Kehler, with help from Gary Reimer, served up farmer sausage that he said was “just like we used to make in Niverville.”

Young and old alike were thrilled by was the appearance of Art Wiebe’s team of Siberian Huskies. While the dog handler had his difficulties with snowmobiles buzzing around and crowds coming up to pet the friendly dogs, people were fortunate enough to receive rides and most got to see the team. At one point, a Carillon photographer snapped a photo of an enthusiastic three-dog team giving a couple of excited youngsters a ride. Apparently, the noise of the snowmobiles had been too much for the fourth Siberian in the team and he jumped his harness to watch the action from a distance.

Attendance records were not kept for the afternoon because there was no admission charge, but key Centennial Committee organizer Rod Siemens indicated that the turnout had been excellent, considering the low-key promotion of the event and the less than pleasant winter weather conditions.

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