Snow, Speed, and Memories: The I-500 Experience in Sault Ste Marie
Episode 1415th January 2024 • Total Michigan • Cliff Duvernois
00:00:00 00:26:00

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The script is a conversation between the host, Cliff Duvernois, and Carri Bradley, a board member and co-chair of the I-500 snowmobile race in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. They discuss Carri's involvement with the race, the history and significance of the I-500, the events and activities during race week, and the experience of watching and participating in the race. Carri also talks about the community involvement and volunteers needed for the event.

Links:

https://i-500.com/

Transcripts

Carri Bradley:

It's an experience like you'll never experience.

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:

I compare it to a NASCAR race.

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:

When we say, start your sleds,

and you hear the sound and

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:

the smell of the race fuel.

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:

Um, it's like no other.

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:

And when they drop that green flag,

it's like your heart is pounding.

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:

The sound is absolutely incredible.

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:

It's nerve wracking.

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:

Cliff Duvernois: Hello everyone.

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And welcome back to Total Michigan,

where we interview ordinary Michiganders

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doing some pretty extraordinary things.

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I'm your host, Cliff DuVernois.

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It's hard not to think about

winter time in Michigan without

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thinking about the I-500.

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Uh, Every snowmobiler on the

planet absolutely loves this race.

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And it's, it's come to define

wintertime in Sault Ste.

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Marie.

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That's why I'm absolutely thrilled

today, to have one of the board members

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of the I-500 as well as the co chair.

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And that would be Carri Bradley.

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Carri, how are you?

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Carri Bradley: I'm wonderful.

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Thank you.

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Cliff Duvernois: Excellent, and

thank you for being here today.

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Why don't you tell us a little bit about

where you're from and where you grew up.

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Carri Bradley: I grew up, in the Soo.

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And then relocated to Marquette.

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However, my roots have always been

here, with generational family here,

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in our involvement with the I-500 is,

is deep and ingrained in our fiber.

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And

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Cliff Duvernois: we're

definitely going to explore that.

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So where did you wind up going to college?

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Carri Bradley: I did go to Lake State.

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I received a degree from Lake State.

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I'm going to date myself

in the early, 90's.

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And then went to further my

education at Northern and then a

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Master's degree from Grand Valley.

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Cliff Duvernois: What'd

you get your master's in?

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Carri Bradley: School of Social Work.

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Cliff Duvernois: Interesting.

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Okay.

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So let me ask you this question.

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Why go into social work?

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Carri Bradley: I have always loved people.

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I have always wanted everyone to

fulfill their dreams and commit

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to their highest potential.

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And I'm very interested in

helping people get to that point.

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Cliff Duvernois: And where do you think

that this desire of yours came from?

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Carri Bradley: A lot of it had

to do with my family roots.

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We're very, very people oriented, have

always volunteered in our communities.

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Um, my parents, grandparents, I've

had phenomenal role models in that.

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And it was just one of those things

that you give back to your community.

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you you get what you give.

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Cliff Duvernois: Nice.

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Now, it's, so did you actually

get a career going in social work?

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Carri Bradley: Absolutely.

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Yes.

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I'm, I'm a retired social worker.

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I've worked clinical social

work in a hospital setting

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in a mental health setting.

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And then I finished out my career, 28

year career as a school social worker.

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Cliff Duvernois: Okay, now was

this back up here in the UP?

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Carri Bradley: Yes, this was here

in the Eastern upper peninsula.

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Yes.

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Cliff Duvernois: Okay.

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So now I'm going to take a step back.

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Because it seems like there's a big leap

between I'm a social worker to the I 500.

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Yes.

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So, how did you get

involved with the i-500?

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Carri Bradley: Back in the early

In the:

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sold ski roll snowmobiles.

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So as far back as I can remember,

our family rode snowmobiles together.

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That was something that

we did on the weekends.

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If you were too small to sit on the sled,

you actually got towed in the back of one.

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Cliff Duvernois: in the back of

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Carri Bradley: So I don't

remember snowmobiling not

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ever being a part of my life.

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My grandpa had snowmobile teams

in the first couple races.

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Generationally, um, my great uncle

was one of the first founding board

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members and planners of the I-500.

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Many family members

have been on the board.

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There's probably not too many years of

our 55 year history that there hasn't

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been a family member on the board.

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Probably not a single year where

there hasn't been a family member

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At least involved in volunteering in

the race, if not handfuls of them.

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Cliff Duvernois: Carri, if you

would, tell us what the i-500 Is.

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Carri Bradley: I-500 is a week long

family community event that ends

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on Saturday with the biggest, most

exciting race in North America.

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Cliff Duvernois: Ok.

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So what goes on during this family

'cause you said it's an entire Week.

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So it's not 7 days of racing, is it?

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Carri Bradley: No, it's not.

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Our program starts on

Sunday, with our kids race.

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Very family oriented.

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A great day.

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We end with a pizza party and

a celebration and trophies.

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It's our way of not only giving back

to the community, but also involving

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our young people in the racing circuit.

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It's great for them to get

started at a young age.

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And we teach them exactly appropriate

race etiquette, so to speak.

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And it gives them a great opportunity

to get out there and show their stuff.

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And they absolutely love it.

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It's one of my favorite events that we do.

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Cliff Duvernois: And what other kind of

events do you have going on that week?

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Carri Bradley: that week?

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On Monday, we also try to involve

the community as much as possible.

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And we do a skate night at the track.

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It will be held on Monday

this year, weather permitting.

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Everything again is weather permitting.

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From five to seven, where we invite

the community to actually come

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and skate around the Mile Oval.

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Which is really exciting.

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A totally different look.

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It, it looks big.

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But when you're actually going around

that mile loop, it's quite incredible.

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And then we also are planning our

driver introduction night, where the

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kids can come, families can come.

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And actually meet some of the

drivers, sit on their sleds, ask

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them questions, things like that.

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It's, it's a great opportunity for our

drivers to give back to the community

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and just to, to keep everybody

interested, and know what's happening.

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Cliff Duvernois: And a couple of other

events that they got going on that week.

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Carri Bradley: on.

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Uh, so then we move into our

actual qualifying for the week.

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We have several sessions of that.

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We also have a race Wednesday

night as well as Thursday night.

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Friday we move into race registration.

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And we do everything

around racing on Friday.

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And then we kick off

everything Saturday morning.

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Cliff Duvernois: Carrie for the actual

race day itself in the morning, right?

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When things are going on, talk

to us about what that is like.

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Carri Bradley: Wow.

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Cliff, it's the most

exciting experience ever.

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Um, We start our pre race

festivities at around 9 a.

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m.

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with a green flag drop at 10.

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And let me tell you.

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It's an experience like

you'll never experience.

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I compare it to a NASCAR race.

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When we say, start your sleds,

and you hear the sound and

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the smell of the race fuel.

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Um, it's like no other.

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when they go around those

first few laps, under caution.

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We like to watch for, snow dust

and conditions, track conditions.

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And when they drop that green flag,

it's like your heart is pounding.

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The sound is absolutely incredible.

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It's nerve wracking.

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I cry actually the first several laps

because, um, the sleds are very bunched

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up, when they go around the first few

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Cliff Duvernois: laps.

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And,

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Carri Bradley: and, it's, we

tend to tell racers, rookies.

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We say, you know, you're not going

to win this race the first 100 laps.

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This is a 500 mile race.

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But, once, once they start,

that driver kicks in.

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And the excitement kicks in.

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And people take off.

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And it's.

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nerve wracking and

exciting and fun to watch.

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the sounds, the noises, the smell,

it just doesn't get any better.

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It's, it's in your body.

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And if you experience that one

time, you will be addicted.

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You will want to come back every

year after that, to see that start.

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Cliff Duvernois: Why don't you

talk to us about how the initial

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idea for the I-500 came about?

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Why even have a race in the first place?

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Carri Bradley: This started out

with a group of men, sitting around

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having coffee and thinking about

the Daytona 500 and saying, hmm, we

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should do this for a snowmobile race.

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We should do something that we

can do 500 laps on a snowmobile.

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And it evolved from there.

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And my understanding is that we had

a great showing of people from both

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sides of the river, who ended up

partaking in this endeavor, truly.

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And, bringing equipment and accessories

over from across the border and

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building our first initial racetrack.

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Cliff Duvernois: And from

there, it's become a little

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bit of a cultural phenomenon.

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Carri Bradley: Absolutely.

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Cliff Duvernois: How many

people usually attend the I-500?

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Carri Bradley: We usually

have upwards of, um, 20, 000.

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Cliff Duvernois: Oh Sweet Moses

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Carri Bradley: Yes.

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Cliff Duvernois: That is a lot of people.

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And how many race drivers

do you typically have?

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Carri Bradley: Well, we're allowed to

have, well, that's varied over the years.

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We used to have more, um, when we started.

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Our starting field now is, I think, 35.

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Cliff Duvernois: oh okay.

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So that's actually a lot less

than I thought it would be.

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But you said there was a point

in time that there was more

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Carri Bradley: more.

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Yes.

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Cliff Duvernois: You were also talking

to, and this is something that I've known

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for quite a while, and your statement

earlier kind of sparked the memory.

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The racetrack is actually made of ice.

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Carri Bradley: Yes, it is, which

is a big misconception because

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people think that we need snow.

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We need cold weather to

be able to freeze water.

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It is ice.

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Cliff Duvernois: Why ice?

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Because I'm one of those people that

would think you should be racing on snow.

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But why ice?

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Carri Bradley: You know,

it gives better traction.

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we, the drivers have studs.

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so it's just a better

race surface than snow is.

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Cliff Duvernois: For the I-500,

because I know that you said, how

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many generations of your family

have been involved with the I-500?

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Carri Bradley: Yes.

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Cliff Duvernois: So it

literally is in your DNA.

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yes.

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it is.

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And so when it comes time for you

to decide to join the I-500, is it

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just because of family tradition?

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Is it something that

you're passionate about?

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Carri Bradley: Absolutely both.

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Like I said, I grew up riding

sleds, still ride to this day.

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Grandfather rode till

he was in his eighties.

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My dad rode until he passed away.

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Additionally, it was something that

we were involved with for so long.

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And when I moved back to town,

um, I had lots of family involved.

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So it made sense for me to get

re involved as a volunteer.

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Cliff Duvernois: When you joined

the I-500, was it with the intent

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that, you know, you were one day

going to be on the board of it?

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or were you just thinking to

yourself at the time, I just

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want to be a part of this?

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Carri Bradley: Absolutely

just a part of it.

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Never, ever, ever aspired

to be a board member.

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And how many years now

have you been doing this?

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This will be my 31st year.

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of

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Cliff Duvernois: Wow.

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Carri Bradley: Yes.

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Cliff Duvernois: Wow.

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And you keep coming back for more.

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Carri Bradley: It's family.

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Once you've

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Cliff Duvernois: you're not just talking

literally family, it's the I-500 family.

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Carri Bradley: It's, it's a family.

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I think anyone that you would

talk to that has volunteered there

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over the 55 years would say it's

the I-500 and it's volunteers.

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It's family.

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And when you need something, and you call

on your I-500 family, they are there.

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Cliff Duvernois: I love that.

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For our audience we're going to take

a quick break to thank our sponsors.

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When we come back, we're gonna talk a

lot more about the I-500 and what you

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can expect when you come to the event.

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We'll see you after the break.

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Hello everyone, and welcome

back to Total Michigan, where we

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interview ordinary people doing

some pretty extraordinary things.

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I'm your host, Cliff Duvernois.

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Today, we're talking with the

co chair of the I-500, and

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that would be Carri Bradley.

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Carri, before the break, we were having

a pretty cool conversation, actually,

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with regards to the I-500 family.

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And you were talking about the,

you know, the volunteers and

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everything else and how they're

there and I absolutely, I love that.

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So, to take a step back here, to

put on an I 500 event, how many

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people are typically involved?

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Carri Bradley: involved?

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Hundreds.

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So many people do things that we

don't even know about every year.

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I couldn't even give you

a a solid number on that.

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This community has supported this event.

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And the volunteers and the

people of this community have

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made this event for 55 years.

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We are the longest running volunteer

event in the state of Michigan.

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Cliff Duvernois: That's

something to hang your hat on.

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Carri Bradley: It's amazing.

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Yeah.

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So I can't even tell you because so many

things, simultaneously, happen that we

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don't even know about, that somebody calls

and says, Hey, can you do this for us?

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Hey, can you do that for us?

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Hey, what, I couldn't even tell

you how many hundreds of people are

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involved in this event each year.

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Cliff Duvernois: So with that being

said, it seems that the community just

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does more than just show up at the race.

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Carri Bradley: Absolutely.

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Absolutely.

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Absolutely.

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From, track efforts all year around,

mowing grass, cutting trees, to, providing

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food during race week for volunteers.

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Um, We feed all of our volunteers.

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Yeah, they're involved in

every aspect of this race.

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Cliff Duvernois: So let's talk about if

somebody's listening to this and they're

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like, you know what I'd like to volunteer.

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I would like to be a part of this.

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You talk to us a little bit

about how that process works.

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What are some of the things that they

could expect if they wanted to volunteer?

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Carri Bradley: if they

wanted to volunteer?

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Well, we do have, um, on our

website, uh, a volunteer application.

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And when you fill that out, you

give us an idea of what you might

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be interested in volunteering.

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And then we try to match

what your interest is.

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Like I said, there's anything up

there, from working in the summer.

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During work projects, to plowing

snow in the winter, to hanging

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banners, to helping cook food for

volunteers, to selling apparel.

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There's such a wide variety of things

that people can become involved with.

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It's endless.

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Cliff Duvernois: The I 500 in

and of itself is a year round.

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event.

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it's not just one week out of the year.

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It's the race is over.

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And you're already focused on next year.

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Carri Bradley: We're

planning for the next year.

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We're actually planning simultaneously

while the race is going on.

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We're taking notes and saying,

Hey, we need to do this next year.

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Hey, we need to not do

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Cliff Duvernois: I love that

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Carri Bradley: So we're

continually in a planning process.

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Cliff Duvernois: And when you were talking

before about volunteering over the summer,

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why is it important over the summer

to have people working on the track.

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Carri Bradley: We have such a limited

amount of time weather wise here.

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And where the tracks located,

it's very, it's all clay.

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It's very wet.

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So we have a limited amount of

time that we can actually do

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some of the outside projects that

we do, throughout the summer.

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Any type of building repairs that we

do all have to be done in the summer.

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Any ground repairs have

to be done in the summer.

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So we're always, looking for

people to support us during our

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work bees for the summer as well.

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Cliff Duvernois: So you don't

have to necessarily freeze

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Carri Bradley: Absolutely not.

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Cliff Duvernois: You can here when

it's, you know, 80, 90 degrees

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Carri Bradley: Yes, and cut

trees, and cut grass, and we're

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doing a project right now.

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Um, We're insulating one of our

buildings and putting a new furnace in.

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So that means moving equipment

out and things like that.

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We always have painting

projects going on in the summer.

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We're moving things.

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Absolutely, there's many things

to be done in the summer as well.

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Cliff Duvernois: Now for the person

that's hearing this and thinking,

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you know, I want to go to the i-500.

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Maybe they've never even been here before.

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What are some things that I should keep

in mind like really to like maximize and

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get the most out of the I-500 experience?

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Carri Bradley: I think taking in as

many of the I-500 events as you can is

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a great way to see the overall picture.

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A lot of people come just for the Saturday

for the race because it is the big event.

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But there's so much that goes

on during the race week that

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families can take part in.

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I would definitely,

encourage people to do that.

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It kind of gets you geared

up for race day on Saturday.

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Cliff Duvernois: You were

talking before the break about,

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there's a lot of kid activities.

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That are in this, and I can imagine

a lot of parents are thinking,

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man, kids get cold so fast.

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Carri Bradley: And race day,

we have vendor tents set up.

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And those are heated.

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So people can go in there

to warm up if they get cold.

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you know.

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Cliff Duvernois: hot cocoa.

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Carri Bradley: Absolutely.

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So we have food vendors in there.

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Yeah, so they can go

in and warm up in that.

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Yes.

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Absolutely.

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Cliff Duvernois: up.

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for the actual, event itself, if somebody

is actually interested in racing in the

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event, talk to us about that process.

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I can imagine you guys get flooded

with thousands of applications because

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everybody and their brother wants to race.

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So how do you get it

down to that final 35?

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What are some of the

qualifications that you have

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Carri Bradley: Well, to be on the

track, you have to fill out, if you're,

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uh, You're a rookie, we call them.

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You have to fill out an

application with our race director.

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And he reviews your

qualifications in that.

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Before you're even allowed

to be on the track.

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So that's the first process in that.

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Cliff Duvernois: I would just assume

that just because you've ridden on

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trails doesn't make you automatically

qualified to go 500 miles on an oval.

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Carri Bradley: Correct?

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Yes.

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You have to have some race experience.

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Cliff Duvernois: Ok

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Carri Bradley: and that

could be snow cross.

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in different states, different

race circuits and things like that.

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Yes.

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Cliff Duvernois: There's actually

qualifications that go on.

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Carri Bradley: Yes.

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There is qualifications.

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There's several rounds of qualifying.

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And then, depending upon the

speeds, that's our pole setter.

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And that's how our, positions,

it's just like a NASCAR

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Cliff Duvernois: Nice.

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Carri Bradley: race, um, you

qualify for your position.

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Cliff Duvernois: Nice.

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I know last year there was a lot

of excitement around the i500.

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And the finish that game is, yes.

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So, for those that are, you know,

listening to the talk, well,

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what what would you talk about?

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Share with us a little bit about that.

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Cause it actually made a

lot of news in the state.

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Carri Bradley: Yeah, we had the

we had the closest race ever.

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it was very exciting.

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Absolutely.

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don't know that we'll ever have

that kind of a finish again.

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But yeah, it was, it was

down to The last second.

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Yes,

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Cliff Duvernois: Excellent.

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And now for the, for the race.

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So what, when is the

race coming up in:

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Carri Bradley: Historically, we

always thought that the race we

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always told everyone it's the first

Saturday in February every year.

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We found out through some history

books from one of our founding

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fathers just recently that we

did actually have a couple races.

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We had one race that was on the

second Saturday in February.

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And we had one that had to be postponed

due to weather and was held on a Sunday.

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So It normally is held on the

first Friday, or I'm sorry the

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first Sunday in February So this

year it will be February 3rd.

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Okay.

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Cliff Duvernois: Okay.

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for this year's I-500

that's coming up in:

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Is there anything new that's

coming out that people can expect.

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Carri Bradley: No.

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No.

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we, We have our schedule

set for this year.

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You can find that on our website

with, all the events, times.

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but no, we have not added

anything new for this year.

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I would like to say though that

we do have vintage racing as well.

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on our Tuesday schedule.

439

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And so when you talk about vintage,

you're talking about old sleds?

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Older, older sleds, yes.

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That wouldn't necessarily,

be driving in the I-500.

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However, we do have some events

that we do, have some of our former

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sleds in that, come back and race.

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Cliff Duvernois: I spent some time over

at the Snowmobile Museum in the UP.

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And that was a treat.

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Carri Bradley: Oh.

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It's amazing and that if you at

all are into snowmobiling and,

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the history of snowmobiling, that

is the most amazing place to go.

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There is so much history, in, in

snowmobiling and, It's incredible,

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like you said, what, what they.

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when it started to what has evolved now.

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They also have a wonderful,

section of the museum that

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they've dedicated to the I-500.

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So they actually have a lot

of our memorabilia there.

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As well as some of our sleds

that have been in the race.

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So it's, it's a nice mix of Old

and more new, not totally new.

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But more new, so I just can't

say enough about the museum.

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It's, it's a phenomenal place to visit.

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Charlie and his wife are dedicated

to the history of snowmobiling.

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So definitely something I would

say to take in the week of the

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I 500, if you're here in town.

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That's a short drive away, and

I would definitely, visit there.

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Cliff Duvernois: Certainly.

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:

And to circle back with something

that you you've been involved with the

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I-500 now for 31 years what would be

maybe one or two of some of the biggest

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changes that you've seen over that time?

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Carri Bradley: Probably the sleds.

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Obviously we're, we're running speeds of

over a hundred miles an hour now, where

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we started at 40 and 50 miles an hour.

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So definitely the sleds themselves, the

make of the sleds, and the speeds as far

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:

as, you know, the race, When you think

back to when we started in:

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sleds were going, 40 50 miles an hour.

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And people thought that was fast.

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And the people thought that was fast.

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And now our sleds have computerized

systems in them and, they're

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running computerized things.

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It's, It's, just phenomenal how technology

has changed with sleds over time.

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Cliff Duvernois: Carri, if somebody's

listening to this interview and they

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want to check out more about the I

500 and we talked about ways that

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they can volunteer or even if they're

crazy enough to try to race it.

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But where can they go to find

more information on that.

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:

Carri Bradley: They can

go to our website at, www.

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i500.

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com.

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We also have a Facebook

page, that they can look at.

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We post things regularly on there.

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If you're interested in watching

our event, and you're unable to

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come in person, um, we do have Flow

Sports, who live stream our event.

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And they are there all week long.

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They live stream all of our, um, what

we call time trials or qualifying.

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They're a wonderful, wonderful venue.

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If you can get on and subscribe to

Flow Sports, that's where you would

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be able to see everything live.

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Cliff Duvernois: Wonderful.

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:

And is there a link on your

website to Flow Sports?

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Carri Bradley: Yes.

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there Yes.

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Sounds great.

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Cliff Duvernois: great.

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:

Carri, thank you so much for taking time

out of your schedule to be with us today.

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Really do appreciate it.

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Thank you.

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And for our audience, you can always

roll on over to TotalMichigan.

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com, click on Carri's interview and get

all the links that she mentioned above.

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We will see you next week when we

talk to another Michigander doing

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some pretty extraordinary things.

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We'll see you then.

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