Take a ride back in time with the Northwoods Harness Club from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday during the 31st annual Sleigh and Cutter Rally at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center.
“It’s the same as it’s always been,” said Ashland Rally Coordinator Charlie Singler, explaining that members of the Northwoods Harness Club bring their horses and sleighs to the Ashland area for the public to view. “They come as far as Canada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and the Dakotas. We usually attract about 30 different units … some are original sleighs, some are rebuilt sleighs and some are homemade sleighs.”
To complete the picture, Singler said most of the participants dress in period costumes from the 1800s.
“We attract all types of horses from the mini horse and ponies, driving horses and draft horses,” said Singler. “They go from 34 inches tall to six feet tall.”
From 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., visitors have the opportunity to ride on replica sleighs from the 1800s, thanks to the free sleigh rides sponsored by Northern State Bank. While that is going on, the unit drivers will get ready for the 1 p.m. parade.
“If they [people] get out there at 11 o’clock, they can walk around the horses and see them hooking up and so forth,” said Singler, adding that from 11 a.m. to noon it’s a good chance to ask the drivers questions. “At one o’clock we’ll do a parade and then each unit will exhibition individually after the parade. The units are judged based on the costumes, how the horse handles and then the total unit together, how it looks.”
Singler said they give out awards in 17 different classes.
“The club supports our youth drivers and we have a special class just for the youth,” he said. “They’ll participate in a separate class on Saturday.”
Following the Sleigh and Cutter Rally, the Northwoods Harness Club has a banquet.
“Then after the banquet we have a video,” Singler said. “It shows all the people who have driven during the day, put all the pictures together and then we award one prize per class.”
According to Singler, the club puts on the event for the public but because of the costs involved, they couldn’t do it without some help.
“We have many business in the Ashland area that help support it,” he said. “They help buy the prizes for the classes and they help do the advertising so it would not go without the support of the Ashland area businesses.”
Singler said everything seems to be coming together favorably for this weekend.
“We’re supposed to have enough snow and the sun is going to shine and it’s going to just be a wonderful day,” Singler said. “I think the temperatures supposed to be around 20 degrees and hopefully there won’t be much wind and 20 degrees is like summertime.”
There is something for everyone to enjoy about the Sleigh and Cutter Rally, he said.
“This is for people that want to look back and remember the old era, the old times when they traveled by horse,” said. “It’s also for the young people to come out and have a ride and for the inquisitive people just to see how things are going. Some of our members travel all through the states showing during the summertime so there’s some very … classy units.”
Hot food concessions will be for sale by the support of Center Friends group.
The NGLVC is located at 29270 County Hwy G just outside of Ashland and can be reached by telephone at 715-685-9983.