Melissa Klessig, event leader for the Dogsled Dash event at Northwoods Blizzard Blast, was presented with a trophy as Volunteer of the Year from Blizzard Blast Chairman Lanny Studdard. Klessig has supported the fundraiser since 2015. —Photo By Jacki Hildebrandt
Melissa Klessig, event leader for the Dogsled Dash event at Northwoods Blizzard Blast, was presented with a trophy as Volunteer of the Year from Blizzard Blast Chairman Lanny Studdard. Klessig has supported the fundraiser since 2015. —Photo By Jacki Hildebrandt
Organizers of the Northwoods Blizzard Blast recently hosted a sponsor appreciation party at Lanny’s Fireside to present funds to local emergency services groups, as well as to honor volunteers.

Blizzard Blast Chairman Lanny Studdard presented checks totaling $42,000 to representatives of Conover, Land O’ Lakes, and Phelps fire and EMS departments. The Northwoods Blizzard Blast has raised more than $225,000 in the last nine years and saw record attendance this year, with organizers estimating a turnout of more than 2,000 people at the Feb. 18 event.

“The ninth annual Northwoods Blizzard Blast was a remarkable event this year,” Studdard said. “The generosity of our sponsors, the dedication of the fire departments and EMS, and the countless volunteers combined to make this a fun-filled winter festival.”

“The funds raised help to provide needed services and equipment for our communities. The Northwoods Blizzard Blast is a wonderful example of what our communities, working together, can accomplish. Their generosity and heart are immeasurable and can only help grow this event bigger and better in the years to come.”

Officials from local departments shared how these funds will aid in life-saving efforts.

Conover Chief Rob Martinson said he intends to purchase a new 1-ton passenger truck to more efficiently transport crew and equipment to rescue sites not requiring the larger trucks. Conover’s EMS squad also is in need of a new ambulance cot for safe and efficient transport of patients.

In prior years, Conover has used funds toward air bags to aid in stabilizing vehicles at crash sites for the safety of patients and crew. The department also used funds toward a UTV equipped with tracks to aid rescues in remote areas and on trails.

To donate directly to either of Conover’s departments, checks can be made payable to Conover Fire and Rescue or Conover Ambulance Service and mailed to: P.O. Box 14, Conover, WI 54519.

Sig Baake, Land O’ Lakes Ambulance director, has designated funds toward a new ambulance in the future. In the past, funds have gone toward a new cardiac monitor and a rescue UTV.

Land O’ Lakes Fire Chief Sam Otterpohl stated the department is working towards a new tanker truck, as well as two water rescue suits.

To donate to Land O’ Lakes fundraising efforts, send funds to: Land O’ Lakes Fire Department or Land O’ Lakes Ambulance Service, P.O. Box 660, Land O’ Lakes, WI 54540.

Phelps Chief Norm Mesun stated their current fundraising goals are emergency generator systems for both fire stations, as well as a water rescue response boat to enable quicker response on area lakes and waterways.

Prior financial donations have been used for upgraded cold water rescue suits and a new UTV and trailer.

Phelps departments welcome donations sent to: P.O. Box 97, Phelps, WI 54554 and may be designated to Phelps Fire Department or Phelps Emergency Medical Services.

Supporters wishing to donate to all three departments may send tax deductible contributions to: Northwoods Blizzard Blast Inc., 5315 Highway 45 N, Conover, WI 54519.

Volunteerism at its best

Hundreds of volunteers and staff turn out each year to make this event a success and are honored during the appreciation party.The 2023 Northwoods Blizzard Blast Volunteer of the Year award went to Melissa Klessig, event leader for the popular Dogsled Dash.

“Melissa first brought her event to the 2015 Northwoods Blizzard Blast and has been thrilling hundreds of kids every year since,” Studdard said. “It is a very physical role and Melissa just keeps running and running to bring smiles to so many youths.”

The popular event lets children play musher while piloting a small sled behind a husky dog pulling them to the finish line. Participating children each receive their own musher’s medal.

Klessig graciously accepted the award and received the annual custom snowflake trophy during the presentation.

In other presentations at the party, Studdard thanked the Conover Sno-Buddies Snowmobile Club for its support in preparing the baseball diamond, sledding hill, and trail areas. Appreciation also went out to town of Conover Public Works Department for its assistance in clearing the park and moving the abundant snow ahead of the event.

Studdard went on to praise the nearly 100 community volunteers and area youth who turned out to staff the 17 events happening throughout the grounds, as well as to extend his appreciation to the many businesses that donated items and gift certificates to raffle baskets and silent auctions.

The nonprofit organization’s mission statement is to, “Create an annual winter festival, celebrate all that the season has to offer in our area, and connect our communities through an economic, social and tourism event for the benefit of all in our North Woods.”

Held the Saturday of President’s Day weekend each February, planning is already underway for the next event slated for Feb. 17, 2024.