FORT KENT, Maine — If Eric Robbins was not a northern Maine snowmobile legend before, he certainly is now.
The Fort Kent SnoRiders snowmobile club has been raising funds for trail maintenance this year by posting a giant cardboard cutout of trail groomer Eric Robbins, shirtless and giving an enthusiastic thumbs up, along the trails. So far they’ve raised about $3,000.
Snowmobilers are encouraged to take photos with the cutout and post them under the hashtag #findRobbins on social media. There is also an option on the cutout for riders to scan and make donations to the club. When the snowmobiling season ends, one person who shared a photo with the cutout will receive a yet-to-be determined prize.
The SnoRiders move the Eric Robbins cutout by transporting it on the back of the groomer drag to different locations along the trail system weekly.
“He could be anywhere from Frenchville to Carter Brook on ITS 85, ITS 92 between Fort Kent and St. John, from Fort Kent to Cross Lake on 73b, or 73 to Sly Brook turn,” SnoRiders trail master Chad Pelletier said.
The plan came about one night when a fun-loving crew of SnoRiders members — including Chad Pelletier, groomer operator Corey Pelletier and equipment maintenance director Mike Voisine — were tossing around fundraising ideas.
The men were inspired by a similar idea in southern Aroostook, where sledders take their photos next to a cutout of country singer Tanya Tucker.
Eric Robbins is not a famous country western star, but he is well-known among Maine snowmobile enthusiasts, so he came to mind for the SnoRiders fundraising cutout.
“Eric is known throughout all of New England and beyond I think in the snowmobiling community,” Chad Pelletier said. “He puts in hundreds of hours grooming each year for multiple clubs and posts his reports on many different sled forums. He’s become quite popular. He puts his heart and soul into the sport.”
When asked to participate in the fundraiser, Robbins was all in.
“I said, ‘hell yeah, great idea.’ It’s good fun and if it makes some money for the club that’s awesome, but most of all if it makes people forget the crazy world we live in now and just laugh and smile,” Robbins said.
Robbins was born in Connecticut where he developed a passion for snowmobiling with his late father, Richard Robbins.
“I just love the sport. I have been riding with my family since 3 years old. Me and my father rode every single year, never missing a season until he passed away a few years ago. After that I took all my passion for the sport to not riding as much but helping clubs in any way I can,” Eric Robbins said.
The younger Robbins eventually found his home in a small off-grid camp in Fort Kent.
“I came here snowmobiling and fell in love with the area,” he said.
Chad Pelletier said the Robbins cutout has raised thousands of dollars so far for the club, which is much appreciated.
“We get minimal money from the state, so clubs have to get creative to pay their expenses,” Pelletier said. “Without the clubs, there would be no trails. The snowmobile industry brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars to Aroostook County’s economy. It’s very important we keep trails smooth and safe for riders to keep them coming back.”
Tom Cummings of the Portland area has snowmobiled in northern Maine for several weekends a year for the past 15 years. He took a photo with the Eric Robbins cutout on ITS 85 on the powerline heading toward Frenchville.
“I’ve become friends with Eric over the years,” Cummings said. “He is hands down one of the best in the business that brings so much tourism to our great state.”
Robbins said he has not been asked for his autograph yet, but has received many free beers.
Chad Pelletier said the Robbins cutout will return to the Fort Kent trails next snowmobile season.
“It’s been a hit this winter,” Pelletier said.