Racing event to honour Woodstock snowmobile pioneering legend

by | Feb 4, 2024

Maritime Snowmobile Championship Racing will pay tribute to late Red Buckingham as it returns to Connell Park Raceway

By Bob Fowlie

When Maritime Snowmobile Championship Racing returns to Woodstock’s Connell Park Raceway after a 42-year absence, the memory of Leighton “Red” Buckingham will be honoured with racing in the 440 class and the awarding of the Red Buckingham Memorial trophy to the most sportsmanlike driver.

Born in 1928 and raised in Woodstock, Red was part of the legendary Woodstock Red Raiders basketball team, the squad that won the Canadian Juvenile Championship in 1946. Steady Reddy was the nickname given to him by coach Bob Brown.

A tribute written after Buckingham’s death described him as “a special sort of person who sunk warm spots of memory in your mind that you didn’t really realize were there.”

Buckingham’ ’s daughter, Gail Lipsett, says her dad’s “quietness and modesty became him. Even though he was easygoing, as a salesman, he was trustworthy, and that made him a good businessman. Steady Reddy served him well in business and sports.”

Buckingham was very much a trailblazer in snowmobiling (no pun intended) and a pioneer of snowmobile racing in Woodstock.

Bombardier launched the first Ski-Doo in 1959, and in 1967, Red’s Service Centre opened, dealing in snowmobiles and, in particular, Bombardier Ski-Doos.

It soon became a hub of business for snowmobilers. Sledders from all over New Brunswick and Maine came to have their sleds serviced and to purchase new Bombardier machines and clothing.

Lynn Avery, a member of the committee organizing the rebirth of racing and a racer herself, remembers Buckingham’s shop with fondness.

“It was busy as could be and as a kid who loved snowmobiling, the greatest way to spend time,” she said. “Downstairs in the shop I watched and learned as Donnie Derrick and others changed out pistons and tuned up sleds.”

Given how snowmobiles were Buckingham’s business, it was only natural the sport became his passion.

Not only did he participate in races, but he and his friends were known for snowmobile outings. A couple of excursions took them across New Brunswick, no small thing as the province’s excellent groomed trail system of today did not exist back then.

Being a Woodstock Y’s Men Club member, he was instrumental in starting the Maritime Snowmobile Championships here in Woodstock in 1969.

Buckingham’s racing participation was in the 440 class on a 440 Ski-Doo Blizzard Free Air.

After Red’s death in March of 1971, the Woodstock Y’s Men created the Red Buckingham Memorial trophy for All-Round Driver, which became known as the most sportsmanlike driver.

First presented in the 1972 races — again, right here in Woodstock — Red Buckinigham’s family wanted to reinstate the trophy in his honour and memory.

They look forward to presenting it at the races when they roar back to life Feb. 16 to 18 at the Connell Park Grandstand and Raceway.

You can be sure it’s what Red would have wanted.

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