If you are looking for Travis and Julie Griffin during the winter months, chances are you will find them at a snow covered race track.
Their daughter Ireland, 10, and son Sawyer, 7, race snowmobiles in the Wisconsin Kids Snowmobile Racing Association circuit. Some of the places they have raced at include: Eagle River, Wausau, Tomahawk, Stevens Point, Amherst and the Snodeo in Manawa.
“It’s not real long distance really, a couple of hours away at the max,” Travis said.
Being part of the Snodeo at Bear Lake in Manawa was extra special for the family as Ireland was named the 2013 Snodeo Queen. The WKSRA circuit also raced at the event. Travis said he appreciates Dave and Debbie Sarna giving the circuit the opportunity to race at the event. He believes being part of the event will help promote snowmobile racing among younger kids.
“I believe that by seeing how well things went this year, the Snodeo has the potential to be one of the greatest events of the year for the community,” Travis said.
Sawyer may be only seven years old, but he already has three years of snowmobile racing experience under his belt. After attending a snowmobile race in person, Sawyer said he wanted to start racing because it looked “fun.”
Ireland just concluded her first year of racing. Part of the reason for her starting to race snowmobiles was the enjoyment she saw her brother having.
“It’s fun playing with friends and it’s outside so there’s a lot of activity,” she said.
When they informed their parents that they wanted to race snowmobiles, Travis and Julie didn’t discourage it.
“We had the sleds already so we thought, ‘Why not let them do it,'” Travis said. “We want to do things as a family.”
Julie said she didn’t know what to think at first.
“I was kind of nervous for them and excited at the same time,” Julie said. “It’s nerve-racking when they are out there on the track.”
Lucky, Ireland or Sawyer have not been involved in any bad accidents.
“They’ve always evaded any type of accident that was out there,” Travis said.
It didn’t take long for Sawyer or Ireland to find success in the circuit. Sawyer said he won a trophy his first year racing. In fact, being successful and winning trophies is one of the things Sawyer enjoys the most.
He also remembers a race he won this year in which he beat three kids who had 3-4 years more experience than he had. One of those kids was the racer of the year for the WKSRA circuit the last two years.
“Technically he could start racing when he was four years old in this circuit, but your first year racing you have to stay as a rookie but they kind of let him go ahead because of his experience, him being a little bit older and having the knowledge of it,” Travis said. “We were able to move him up a little quicker and he’s advanced quite well.”
Ireland also found success her first year.
“[I enjoy] the competition and playing with friends and getting the trophies,” Ireland said.
They both said they remember the first time they won a race, and the hug they received from their parents.
Seeing Ireland and Sawyer have success on the circuit is enjoyable for Travis and Julie.
“It’s seeing their success, but it’s being able to see them do something different other than basketball or wrestling or something like that,” Travis said. “We just wanted to go down a different road.”
Julie added, “I think too, just watching them with their little snowmobile friends. They get out and play.”
Once Ireland decided she wanted to race this year, preparing for each weekend of racing became a little more hectic. Travis said 4-5 hours a day was spent preparing the two snowmobiles for the weekend.
“It’s been a little challenging because of the things you have to learn in a quick hurry to get these things set up because every week Tyler [Heinrich] and I tear into something else that we missed or didn’t understand,” Travis said. “It took us about four weeks to get it (Ireland’s snowmobile) dialed in.”
Travis said once Ireland’s snowmobile was dialed in it took about an hour a day to do the general maintenance on the two snowmobiles. Tyler Heinrich helps the Griffins with their snowmobile racing program. Travis’ dad Tom Griffin and Julie’s dad Jim Yaeger also help.
“When we’re at the track working on the snowmobiles it’s usually myself and her (Julie) dad so it’s kind of a family thing,” Travis said.
Race day can also turn into long days.
“Get up early on Saturday mornings and shoot up wherever we’re going. If we are up in northern Wisconsin then we stay at our cabin up there. It’s a little easier,” Travis said. “It takes a little bit of money you have to whip into the sleds but like I said, anything you do it’s going to cost money. It’s just something that we decided we’d rather go in that direction.”
But it is all worthwhile for the Griffins.
“It was a fun year,” Ireland said. “I want to thank my mom and my dad and Tyler for setting it all up. And grandpa Jim for helping.”