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HISTORY OF THE ISAAR TRAILRIDERS SNOWMOBILE CLUB History of the Isaar Trailriders Snowmobile Club
Celebrating 50 years 1968-1969 thru 2018-2019
by Jill Hodkiewicz

The early history is based on an interview on July 19th, 2016 with Gene & Shirley Kropp, Don Melotte, and Gene & Jacqui Westerman.

In the winter of 1968-69, a few friends who were enjoying the beginnings of snowmobiling in the area talked about starting a club. Gene and Shirley Kropp, Don and Joyce Melotte, Gene and Jacqui Westerman, and Cal and Joan Wagner, got together one night in the local tavern in Isaar. They were getting tired of riding in the ditches, the railroad tracks (which was not so legal) and across the fields of a few friends. They wanted to get permission to ride on farmers land.

At the first meeting in Isaar they decided that Gene Kropp would be their president. Don Melotte would serve as vice-president and Joyce Melotte would be secretary and treasurer. Each couple threw in $5.00 dues to start. They would contribute more as needed. The newly formed club needed a name and Joyce Melotte suggested the Isaar Trail Riders. It was accepted as a name they all liked. Joyce Melotte also the came up with the first patch. It was red with white stitches showing four snowflakes surrounding a profile of a snowmobile. It simply said ISAAR TRAIL-RIDERS. Seven couples were members the first year.

Earliest members of the Isaar Trailriders Snowmoblie Club also included Ted and Lillian Van De Yacht, Seifred and Betty Peters, and Milton and Rose Peters. Seifred and Milton Peters were brothers who started a Sno-Prince dealership. They sold snowmobiles from 1966-1968.Seifred Peters Jr. also participated in the Seymour Snowmobile Race held in 1970.

It was decided that they wanted their first trail to go west from Isaar to a small tavern called Koeppel’s. They started with that trail because it was only a two-mile stretch. They approached farmers who owned land along the way. These farmers were well known to the club members since Isaar is a small farming community. Most farmers were agreeable to the idea but there were some who were strongly opposed. They feared crop damage and others didn’t care for the idea of strangers riding across their land.

Soon the first trail for the Isaar Club was in place. Trail signs, to designate it as a snowmobile trail, were arrows painted on boards. Gene Kropp is credited with cutting snowmobile shaped signs out of tin to tack on trees and fence posts. After the first trail was established, the club decided their next trail would go east toward Highway 29 to Green Bay and Duck Creek. Duck Creek is a large river that leads to the Bay of Green Bay. When the winters turned cold enough Duck Creek and the Bay of Green Bay freeze over and can be ridden. They worked hard to establish the trail across many farmers lands. Again, they knew many of the farmers and most were willing to let them cross their land. In those days the snow used to get so deep a person could ride right over the fences but trails were established where the gates were or where the farmers decided to open their fences. Some trails went through wooded area and needed to be brushed out. Fred Van Vanderon pulled the first “grooming” equipment. It was a old bedspring pulled by his Evinrude. Fred’s snowmobile had reverse but was considered quite heavy at around 500 pounds.

President Gene Kropp’s first snowmobile was a 1967 Olympic Ski–Doo purchased at Le Mieux in Green Bay for around $800.00. Gene Westerman’s first snowmobile was a 1969 Herter purchased at the Kuensh Garage in Kuensh for around $650 or $700. Don Melotte’s first snowmobile was a late 1960’s Sno-Jet purchased at Dolittle Sports in Kaukauna for around $750. Couples usually rode together on the same snowmobile. Shirley Kropp was the first woman in the Isaar Club to ride her own snowmobile.

In the next few winters, more people became interested in joining the Isaar club. Gene & Shirley Kropp held cookouts in their garage and invited people from as far as Green Bay. Other club events soon followed. One of the earliest events was a moonlight ride. Members took tin cans mounted on poles. They then placed rolls of toilet paper soaked with diesel fuel in the cans, lit them, and carried these on their snowmobiles for light. They organized parties in the woods with large bonfires. One of the first parties was held in the woods of Marvin (Bob) and Grace Mueller. Another bonfire was built around a large stump pile that needed to be burnt but the night turned so cold that the snowmobilers took their refreshment to Melotte’s Tavern in Issar to drink. Poker runs to local taverns were another early event. The Brown County Reforestation Camp in Suamico was an early destination of the Isaar Club. The camp was popular because the trails were one of the first to be groomed. President Gene Kropp’s uncle worked at the Reforestation Camp. If Gene called his uncle to tell him the club was coming, he would have a bonfire built. Machickanee, an Oconto County forest, also had some of the first groomed trails.l

The club’s members started riding on some Friday nights to Colonial Lanes in Freedom or to Cable Hogue near Pulaski for a fish fry. Isaar snowmobilers also trailered to informal rides up north including the Anitgo, Elcho and Summit Lake areas and also thr Navarino wildlife area. One of the first marked trails up north was the 100-Miler out of Lakewood, Wabeno or Crandon. If you rode the 100 miles of the trail, you earned a patch.

The Outagamie County Snowmobile Alliance formed in 1974 an contacted the Isaar club to come to meetings held at the Outagamie County Conservation Club. The club was asked to join but members were hesitant at first because they were unsure if they would then have others telling them how to run things. Worries were also expressed about snowmobilers coming into the area that were complete strangers with no interest in the local area. The Alliance wanted all clubs to pay dues and the Isaar club didn’t have a large operating fund as it was. The Isaar Trailriders finally did join the OCSA. The Outagamie County Alliance belonged to the Association off Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs. The AWSC had been formed in 1969.

In the late 1970’s Gene Kropp retired as club president. By then the Isaar Trailriders had added more miles of trails, up to 13.1 miles. Gene and Shirley Kropp had kept many of the club’s papers, picture and minutes, but lost all or most of them when his family lost their home in a fire in 2003.
Gary Kropp took over the position of club president next. He attended meetings of the Outagamie County Snowmobile Alliance and would report back to the club about what was going on with snowmobiling in the county and state.

Somewhere around the fall of 1983, the Isaar club decided to hire Al Schampers of Al-Kay Farms to groom the trails. He continued to groom the trails until the winter of 1990-91. The Isaar Trailriders then asked the nearby Dairyland Snowmobile Club if they would be interested in taking over the grooming of the trails. They agreed and continued to do so until the end of the 2013-14 season. Some of the trails were groomed by the Nichols Go-Getter Snowmobile Club during the same time frame as the Dairyland Club.

All persons who were a least 12 years of age and were born on or after January 1, 1985 were (and still are) required to take a Wisconsin approved Snowmobile Safety Course and obtain a snowmobile certificate to ride on public lands. Soon after this law was passed, the ITR send men and women to become certified teachers of these courses. Among them were Don Kropp, Paul Wenninger, Kurt Schuh, Jake Hodkiewicz, Steve Melchert, Patti Eisenereich, Katie Grassel, Tim Schroeder and Melissa Blom. These people and others have graciously taught many snowmobile classes over the years and they continue to do so.

The next club president was Paul Wenninger who served from 1988-1995. Paul kept things running smoothly despite some years with little snow. He attended the Outagamie County Snowmobile Alliance monthly. Many of these years President Paul didn’t even own a snowmobile. In 1995 Steve Melchert was elected president. Steve attended the monthly meetings of the OCSA and kept the club informed about these meetings. Steve went to the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs fall convention for many years to report the happenings from across the state. He served as the Isaar club president until the fall of 2010.

In 2002 the Isaar Trailriders began a website that was first started by secretary Scott Seidl, Katie Grassel maintained the website until 2016 when the Issar Club switched mainly to a Face book page.
In 2003-2009 the club joined forces with the Florence County Snowmobile Club for their annual fall work bee to help them clear their trails by removing trees, limbs and other debris from the trail. The Isaar Club also checked that the snowmobile signs were all in good repair and still in place. For some reason, many of the signs were chewed or torn by bears. After the work was finished club members were treated to a cook out and potluck supper hosted by the Florence Club and the Lake Hilbert Campground. The campground also generously donated campsites to Isaar members who wished to stay for the night.

Cory Mueller wrote a winning essay “ What Snowmobiling Means to Me” in 2007 that won him an AWSC scholarship. He is the son of present members Todd and Rhonda Mueller. Cory is also the grandson of past members Jerry and Roseanne Mueller and the great grandson of founding members Marvin and Grace Mueller.

Alzada Roffers made the club proud when she started the Isaar Trailriders Junior Club in 2008. The youth club has had many events. They took baskets to the Good Shepard Nursing Home, participated in the Nichols and Freedom Christmas parades and in 2011 won an award for the best float with the theme, "In the eyes of a Child." The youth also had a float in the "The World's Largest Hamburger Parade."

Alzada ran for the title of Miss Snowflake in 2008 ,2009 and 2010. In 2010 she placed as second runner up and was awarded the title of “Miss Sparkle”. Again in 2011, Alzada was a second runner up for Miss Snowflake. Alzada (or Zadie” as her friends call her) is the daughter of Cyril and Janet Roffers and also the granddaughter of Seifred and Betty Peters.

In 2009 Zadie earned a Junior Snowmobile Education Instructor Award patch. Zadie was a youth representative for the Outagamie County Alliance and a member of K.A.O.S. The youth club donated canned goods to Community 2000 that they collected from the A.W.S.C. Community 2000 also received a donation of hats and gloves in 2011.

Alizada was instrumental in starting a junior club for Outagamie County. The junior club hosted booyah on the trail to raise money for the Brain Tumor Coalition. They had another booyah sale on the trail for the Old Glory Honor Flight. They raised money to send two veterans to Washington D.C.. They again were able to have booyah on the trail and send money to the March of Dimes, Quite the feats for a small youth club.

2008 was an important year for snowmobilers who lived in the Seymour city limits. The Seymour City Council approved An ordinance to allow city residents to ride from their homes to the nearest snowmobile trail.
On a Saturday in February of 2008,the snowmobile club tried something that they had never done before. They had a hot dog cook out on the trail. It was held near a small cabin on some land owned by members Jake and Jill Hodkiewicz. They hosted snowmobilers from Kaukauna, Suamico, Green Bay, Appleton, Depere, Oneida, Mill Center, Howard, and Little Chute. Over 100 snowmobilers stopped.

In the fall of 2010, the club experienced new leadership with President, Tim Schroeder. He brought new ideas and added to the events the Isaar Trailriders participated in during the summer. Tim is president to this day.

In the winter of 2010-2011 a group of eight Isaar Tailriders women snowmobilers decided to participate in a cause called the Pink Ribbon Riders. The Pink Ribbon Riders are a passionate all- volunteer organization dedicated to raising money through motor sports related events. The money collected is used to buy gift cards that allow people diagnosed with breast cancer to keep up with their bills, buy groceries and to help ease their lives. The Isaar Trailriders Club decided to support this cause by sending eight women along with a generous donation to the Pink Ribbon Ridders. The women were ready to ride but the snow conditions at the time in Eagle River did not allow for that so the women went by car. The Pink Ribbon Group provided a weekend of get-to-know-you parties, games, silent and live auctions and events to fill the weekend.

The Isaar Trailriders are a civic-minded group. In the spring of 2011 until the present they have helped the county by doing a ditch clean up. The ITR pitch in twice a year, usually in April and October, on Highway 55 north of Seymour from County Y to Shady Road. The club even has a sign that reads “Adopt-A- Highway Sponsor , Isaar Trailriders Sno-mo-Club."

In the fall of 2014, the Isaar Trailriders Snowmobile Club in conjunction with the Oneida Swamp Stompers Club, purchased a trail drag from the Dairyland Snowmobile Club. The two clubs agreed to share the expenses equally to fix up and maintain the used drag and to rent a John Deere tractor from Reisterer and Schnell, Inc. out of Pulaski. Members from both clubs would share the responsibility of grooming.

The Isaar Trailriders have had fund-raisers ever since the club started. In the early years until the mid 1990’s the Isaar Club always held dances with local bands and raffles. The dances were held in places like Cable Houge (They also hosted when they became the Homestead Supper Club) and the Edgewood Supper Club. The Trailriders had bands such as Stone Broke, Star Fire and polka bands. When the dances became less profitable, because of the higher prices of the bands and rental of halls, security guards and bartenders, the club decided to switch to a 9-pin tap bowling tournament at Wally”s Seymour Bowl. Wally’s runs the tournament and the club has raffles, silent auctions and games.

The 9-pin tap bowling tournament continues to be the main fundraiser of the club. In fact, on the night of April 14, 2018, when we had our fundraiser for the season, the area was hit with a huge snowstorm like most have never seen. It dropped two feet of snow and lasted into Monday. It was the second largest snowstorm in recorded history. But, the Snowmobile Club still did just fine with their fund raising that evening.

In the 2016-2017 and the 2017-2018 season, the Issar Trailriders Snowmobile Club donated money to help sponsor the UW-Platteville Clean Snowmobile Challenge Team. We have two young men of present and past members and a neighborhood young man who are part of the challenge. They are Matthew Stedl (2017-2018 Diesel Utility Captain), Nathan Solvedt, and Erik Laskowski (2018-2019) Diesel Utility Captain). Their challenge was to build the best running, lowest emissions best balanced, best performing snowmobiles to enhance the sport.

Last year, with their Kubota D902 Diesel, their team placed 1st in the Diesel Utility Class. In this class, their team also won Best Draw Bar Pull, Best Design, Lowest Emissions and Lowest In-Service emissions. With their Ford 1.0L Eco boost, they placed 4th in the International Combustion Class. In this class, they won Best Engine control and Best Balanced Performance.

The Isaar Club has done many fun activities through the years. They have done an annual club ride over a three-day weekend for many years. The club has gone to places like Ishpeming MI. Medford, Laona, Plymouth, Antigo, Weston, Sturgeon Bay, Shawano, Crivitz, Carter, and Eagle River to name just a few. There is also a men’s ride referred to a the “Guys Ride” that has been riding every year since the early 1980’s. They have gone most everywhere in the region from Upper Michigan to Northern Illinois and as far west as the Mississippi River.

The Isaar Trailriders Club has had many woods parties/bonfires through the years. Early woods parties were held in the woods of Milton and Rose Peters and Bob and Grace Mueller. They were also held in Ray and Jack Mueller's and Martin and Kathryn Vande Corput's woods. More recent parties took place in the woods of Jake and Jill Hodkiewicz and Richard and Darlene Stedl. Some of the latest woods parties have included fun and games for the children in the afternoon.

The clubs fun summer activities keep the members interested. These include picnics in places like the Memorial Park in Pulaski and the Lake Park in Seymour. The club has had golf outings at Hilly Haven, Pine Acres, Sandalwood, Irish Waters and Crystal Springs. Other activities include ATV rides, kayaking (2014) and clay shoots. In the summer of 2016 the members even tried a paint and sip event where each member painted a picture. Since 2011, members who can make it, meet the third Friday of each summer month for a fish fry dinner at a predetermined location.

During the winter season, as long as the trails are open, the club does a fish fry ride every Friday night. The members meet at the home of a member, usually Don Kropp's home, and decide where they will ride to get their meal. Members who do not wish to ride snowmobiles may travel by car.

The Issar Trailriders Snowmobile Club never wants to forget the gracious landowners who are willing to let the trails cross their lands. The ITR have had landowner appreciation dinners for many years. We thank the many landowners for letting our trails cross their land. It is only with their help that our club can join with other clubs in Wisconsin to make ours one of the best trail systems in the United States.

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