Morgan County’s 11-year run with the Widowmaker Hillclimb has come to an end.
“It was a family decision we are no longer going to do the Widowmaker because of liability and insurance,” said Logan Wilde, who helps run the family ranch.
For years, the Wilde family was able to buy insurance through various programs for $5,000 a year for the event. When previous programs stopped offering insurance, new insurance quotes were just too much for the family to swallow.
So, it was a decision made by the purse strings, as Logan Wilde alluded to in a recent county council meeting.
No one knows how Morgan will miss the chances for economic development the Widowmaker Hillclimb brought with it more than the Wilde brothers. Logan serves as chairman of the Morgan County Council while his brother Albert is president of the Morgan Area Chamber (of Commerce).
“We do need economic development,” Logan said. “But the bottom line is it is difficult.”
“It is a loss for Morgan County,” Albert said. “There is a lot of sales tax revenue lost. We were drawing people into the county and having them stay for four or five days. They brought a lot of tourism dollars to Morgan County.”
Albert said the cost of covering liability is only increasing for business and private property owners, and losing events like the Widowmaker could become more and more common.
“A lot of events we see throughout the state, especially tourism and recreation, will eventually face the same outlook,” Albert said. “Even if you have people sign waivers, there is a lot of liability out there now. It will be felt economically.”
The Wilde family of Croydon started the annual event in 2002. At its height, there were as many as 10,000 people who gathered in the small town for the motorcycle hillclimb events.
Over the years the event has attracted riders from all over the country and even Canada. Riders were supported by vendors, helicopter rides, mini-moto, children’s activities, zipline rides, battle of the bands competition, skydiver performances, and camping.
“We felt it was a really good, family-friendly event,” Albert said. “It was a place people could go and enjoy themselves in an outdoor setting. It was a lot of fun.”
The hillside on the Wilde family ranch was voted “toughest hillclimb in the world” seven years in a row. It is the site of three different courses, the most difficult the pro exhibition hill. Part of the Rockwell PRO Hillclimb Series, riders in the series competed for $175,000 in winnings. In 11 years, only 20 of 4,500 riders have made it to the top of the 1,000 foot climb. Estimates put the grade of the hill between 45 and 76 degrees.
The pro altered hill know as MOE’s Hill is 550 feet. The Trophy Hill was tackled by amateur riders over the years.
The June 2013 event with 886 registered motorcycle riders would be the last for the rural village east of Morgan City. Its staff that year was 135, in addition to 12 EMTs and an AirMed helicopter that was poised waiting to help in the event of an emergency.
During the 2013 event, father and son Pete and Petey Krunich both made it to the top of the pro exhibition hill in a repeat performance.
Logan Wilde said his family began informing event organizers and riders last year that it may be their last run in Croydon. But still, people are complaining about the loss of venue.
“It was good times,” he said.
Albert said he still gets calls from people asking about the event. Despite the initial let-down, most respect the Wilde family for their decision. Albert said he will miss interacting with riders, sponsors and event organizers who have become close friends over the years. He wishes to thank riders, sponsors, vendors, spectators and the community for their support over the last decade.
Croydon hasn’t been the only home of the Widowmaker. In the 1960s, Draper had the first version. For 11 years, Croydon had their own. A new site near Snowville, Utah, in Box Elder County held a new motorcycle hillclimb dubbed the Ocean Star International X-12 Hillclimb on April 25 to 27 this year with 619 entries.