By Gary Ridderbusch / Editor
Vilas County News-Review
The Decker’s, who have lived in Eagle River since 1985 when they purchased the World Championship Snowmobile Derby Track, said they were honored to lead the annual parade.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Audrey. “I never dreamed that something like this could take place.”
“We took great pride in leading this year’s parade. We are just very grateful and want to thank everyone for this honor,” said Dick.
“Indeed it’s an honor,” added Dick. “We love this town. We love this community. There’s a lot of good people out there we’re honored and very happy to do it. ” The Decker’s, who owned a snowmobile tour and rental business in Minocqua, purchased the Derby Track from the Eagle River Lions Club and have been involved in the biggest race in snowmobiling the past 30 years.
“We came here because of the track and when the opportunity developed to purchase the track, it was the perfect background for our snowmobile touring business that we started at that time. Eagle River has always been very deep in our roots because of the boys racing snowmobiles. We were here a lot.” Dick said it was a good decision when they moved their family and tour business to Eagle River.
“We did live in Minocqua for a while after leaving Marshfield and worked out of there with the tours and snowmobile rental business,” he said. “But then when the touring business was expanding and needed more room, we starting looking at Eagle River because who would not want to live in Eagle River. To me, it’s God’s place because of the lakes and the heritage it has. It just worked out. We happened to be here at the right time when the Lions wanted to back out and it just worked out well for all of us.”
While Dick and Audrey are 83 and 82, respectively, they stay active in the business. They sold the now- AMSOIL World Championship Derby Track to their son, Chuck, in 1989. Dick said, “Chuck has done a hell of a job building it up and he’s not finished. He’s got a lot more ideas. It’s going to be interesting.”
“Audrey and I are getting old,” said Dick with a laugh. “We should be moving on, but I think as long as we have kids — Chuck, Steve and Allen — in town, we’ll be part of the Derby. At least I hope we are, because it’s a passion, it’s more than just a job.”
Their passion for snowmobiling started in the 1960s when they purchased their first snowmobile for the family and they have never lost the excitement, still hosting tours in their early 80s. Through their involvement in snowmobile tours and racing, Audrey said they have developed many friendships over the years. “These people come, summer and winter, just to visit us.”
Dick, who still can be seen at the Derby Track office nearly every day of the week, said the family’s racing spirit has expanded, noting three of his granddaughters are now racing stock cars.
“I go to work every day just because I enjoy it and it keeps me alive I think,” he said. “But what we do when we are not working is chase those girls around and watch them race, and that is two and three times a week. We were in Slinger just last week. Drove down in the afternoon and got back home at 2:30 in the morning. So we’re staying active.”
Audrey said 12 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren keep the couple busy in their free time. Meanwhile, Dick had some advice for people reaching retirement age.
“People retire too early and when they retire, they don’t do anything,” he said. “You’ve got to do something and you have to stay active. If you do that, chances are you will be living longer and a lot better.”
“You know, I have been in the parade when the Derby has had floats. But this was a lot different,” said Audrey. “I guess I’m a little embarrassed being in the position of Parade Marshal and leading. It’s hard to explain. It almost seems like it’s too big of an honor for us.”
Dick said he missed driving the AMSOIL World Championship Derby Track float through the parade route…”But, it was fun because we were able to ride a John Deere UTV to lead the parade and we were very proud of that, we would like to thank Lakeland Lawn and Equipment in Arbor Vitae for the use of the UTV,” Dick Said.
Dick has been an active supporter of developing all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and UTV routes in the Eagle River area.
“The North Woods needed a shot and the ATV thing is going to help immensely,” said Dick. “We have a big ATV/UTV event coming up in August and we worked harder on that than the Derby because it’s new to us. It’s going to be a good one and it’s going to help Eagle River area.”
Dick was referring to the first ATV/UTV World Championships coming to the Derby Track August 28–30.