The Rome Sno-Bandits started in the late 1960’s when about 8 couples from the Rome area decided to form a club and call themselves the Bentley Hillbillies Snowmobile Club. The Bentely Hills moniker was connected to the “rolling hills” of the Rome area. They originally would meet at the Hideaway supper club on the Petenwel flowage. The group that would meet for rides did not have the luxury of the trail system we have now. “We really had some great rides…without the benefit of trails like there are now…we made our own” one founding member was quoted. The Bentley Hillbillies were instrumental in laying the foundation of what we know now as our trail system. As the sport and the club grew it was decided to change the name of the club to the Rome Sno-Bandits. On March 9th 1978 the club was granted incorporation as the Rome Sno-Bandits by the State if Wisconsin..
The Rome Sno-Bandits held their meeting and met at Trails End Bar and Grill, according to former bar co-owner Yvonne Hoffman. To this day Trails End is still the home of the Rome Sno-Bandits.
Looking through old newsletters, summer picnics, winter picnics, poker runs, fall hayrides and bonfires were some of the social events that the club held. There are stories of great summer barbeque feasts at Pettenwell Park, frozen deviled eggs at a fall picnic, and individual characters that legends are made of. Dances were popular in the mid 1970’s with bands like the Wayne Aschenberg Orchestra. The Sno-Bandits also held yearly raffles and dances at the Rome Town hall to raise money to support the trails.
The Rome Sno-Bandits’ Linda Ebbe became the states first female DNR Safety Instructor. “ I stressed hand signals as they were not even mentioned at that time…just seemed logical to me”.
Through the work of the clubs early board they were able to get state funding to help with the “dragging” of the original trails. The club contracted with local excavators and farmers to groom the trails for the club. Talking with Ken Hoffman, he can remember grooming the trails on an open cab bulldozer in sub zero weather. The equipment used today is designed for the sole purpose of grooming snowmobile trail. The Sno-Bandits now own two pieces of grooming equipment to maintain the trail system. In 2003 a section of trail was dedicated to the late LeRoy “Pete” Yanke who was a lifetime member and Trail Boss for many years for the club. The Pete Yanke memorial sign can be seen at the entrance to the trail by the Lake Camelot lodge.
The snowmobiling community has these early members to thank for having the vision and applying the hard work that has helped develop the sport to what it is today.
The Sno-Bandits have always been involved in the community as well. We have always found a way to give back to the community through fund raising activities. Years ago the club sponsored a Halloween haunted house for the kid in the community as well as supporting the Fire Dept Fund. We continue to provide and set up the decorations at the Rome Town Hall for the Holidays and bring in Santa on a fire truck for the kids to meet after a lighting ceremony. For years the club has partnered with the Meylor Open to help fund local charities and scholarships. We also continue to support the MS Society and several local needs.
The Rome Sno-Bandits have grown in many ways. We are now a club of over 160 and we maintain about 35 miles of snowmobile trails. In 2008 the Saratoga Chug a Bugs merged with the Rome Sno-Bandits. With the merger the Sno-Bandits picked up an additional 10 miles of trail and some members of the Chug a Bugs as new members of the Sno-Bandits.
Fund raising is the core that supports most snowmobile clubs today. The Rome Sno-Bandits have several fund raising activities each year. Since 2001 the club has sponsored a Classic Car Show the Saturday of Fathers Day weekend. It is held at the Rome Alpine Village business park. This remains to be our largest fund raising activity of the year. The Car Show has grown each year.
We also partner with the Taste of Rome committee as well as hold a Poker Run the month of January.
Today the Sno-Bandits have grown to having their own web site (www.RomeSnoBandits.com) and a line of Rome Sno-Bandit apparel. The Sno-Bandits always have fun in everything we do no matter if we are working on trails or enjoying a club ride. The Rome Sno-Bandits is a community based club that supports the local businesses and the surrounding area. The Rome Sno-Bandits remain to be a strong club in the area.