Blessing the sleds

IRONS — Bowing their heads in prayer, many holding their helmets, snowmobilers gathered around a fire Saturday morning during the annual Blessing of the Sleds in Irons.

In its ninth year, the annual event drew in hundreds of sleds and riders, some just stopping in for breakfast, while others stayed to hear the blessing held in Irons’ Skinner Park. The event, organized by the Irons Area Tourist Association, is held annually to bring the community together and promote safe snowmobile riding throughout the winter season.

“This brings an awareness of safety for the 2017 season, reminding our riders to take it easy out there on the trails,” said Loretta Wierenga, Irons Area Tourist Association trail coordinator.

The morning started with a free sausage and pancake breakfast. This year, biscuits and gravy also were offered. Families and friends sat in groups, talking and eating while waiting for the blessing. Boy Scout Troop No. 61 volunteered during the breakfast, busing tables and tending the fire. Around 11 a.m., snowmobile riders and community members went out into the cold, standing around a bonfire to wait for the blessing.

The event draws in locals as well as people from different parts of the state, Wierenga said.

“People come from all over,” she said. “A lot of the attendees have cabins in the area and come to the blessing year after year.”

That was the case for Ray Blazer, who is from Paw Paw, but recently purchased a cabin near Irons.

“We come each year,” he said. “We used to come up and stay at a friends place to ride, but now we have our own place. Our friends run the groomers for the trails. We know a lot of the people here. It’s a nice event.”

Pastor Steve Tschannen delivered the blessing, standing on a hill as he spoke to the snowmobiliers, addressing the cold conditions and snow God gave as “good sledding weather.”

Tschannen spoke about the riders’ many fortunes and asked God to watch over them while on their sleds and throughout the year.

“God’s blessing have been with you in the past, affording you the opportunity to have this equipment, take time off from work and enjoy this hobby with family and friends,” he said. “His blessing are with you today, as you just had a nice meal with family and friends and get to have another day enjoying recreation in nature he created.”

Tschannen prayed for a good day, week and winter season, where riders can enjoy the snow.

“It’s my privilege and pleasure to bless you all today,” he said. “I ask for God’s grace and blessing upon this day.”

After the blessing, snowmobiliers got on their sleds and hit the trails.

In his eighth year giving the blessing, Tschannen was impressed with the number of people who attended.

“This is a good turnout,” he said. “The more snow we have, the more people we get. It seems to get bigger every year.”