Building more than a ride, but also a reminder
The serial number etched just below the handle bars of a snowmobile Ben Reese built and Bill Sullivan will be riding reads: 52720639. The first five numbers (5/27/20) signify the date of Grand Forks Police Officer Cody Holte’s end of watch— the day an incident on the job took his life— and the last three numbers represent officer Holte’s badge number.
“That’s probably the date that none of them, none of his (Holte’s) fellow officers will ever forget for sure. And I think it’s details like that people see, and they read it and it kind of sticks in their mind,” Reese said. “… Come that time of the year you do spend a little bit of time thinking about his wife and he’s got a little guy.”
Reese, a Karlstad, Minn., resident and a 1991 Greenbush High School graduate, rebuilt a Polaris 1994 Indy Lite Model snowmobile from the ground up off and on for just over a year and a half for Sullivan of Grand Forks, N.D. This snowmobile became more than a ride. It became a tribute to police officers.
Reese talked about his racing and snowmobile background and this project, including not just the work behind it, but also its significance, and highlighted where this snowmobile was displayed throughout Grand Forks.
Showcasing blue, white, and black colors, including a leather seat designed entirely into a “back the blue” flag, the snowmobile is honoring the police force as a group and specific individuals, including Holte, Ron Nord— a Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Deputy who was injured in this same incident— and Reese’s deceased father, Hector, a previous law enforcement officer within Roseau County and Greenbush.
As for snowmobiles, Reese has always had snowmobiles to work on and drive. His father had once worked as a Polaris dealer. In around 1990, Reese actually began helping build snowmobiles with Troy Pierce, a snowmobile racer. Reese would race snowmobiles in the winter and racecars in the summer. After starting his job at Central Boiler in summer 1992, he began racing on his own with cars and snowmobiles for a couple years, eventually getting to a point where he was racing just cars.
Then, fast forward to 2017, Reese built a snowmobile for racer Keith Wojciechowski, including making parts for it. This project marked the first snowmobile Reese had built from the ground up. He believed this snowmobile had been passed down to a couple racers since then. Reese assists snowmobile racers when he can, including making a few parts for them.
The snowmobile paying tribute to police officers marked Reese’s second snowmobile he built from the ground up. This project came about due to a connection formed in a prior meeting.
Reese had moved a garage onto his Karlstad property from Greenbush in approximately 2018—a space not finished and without lights. Reese contacted Todd Grabanski— an individual Reese had known since the early 1990’s through racing— to ask him about wiring his new garage shop. Grabanski brought along Sullivan, a licensed electrician, to help with the wiring.
Using this same garage to build this latest snowmobile, Reese received a request to look at a snowmobile Sullivan had— a Polaris 1994 Indy Lite Model— and build it into something he could drive on the ice.
“He (Sullivan) had always been a drag racer and he wanted to try oval (racing) on the ice,” Reese said. “So I said, ‘Yeah, I can start on something.’”
Reese started building the snowmobile just before Christmas 2019. Then, not very far into building it, Sullivan expressed wanting to dedicate this snowmobile to the Holte family and Ron Nord.
Reese explained how he thought Sullivan went with this design route due to wanting to provide more recognition to these officers.
“We were on board,” Reese said.
Sullivan and his friend Grabanski put much of the input into the law enforcement design of the snowmobile.
“I didn’t have a lot of input on the hood… We kind of picked a color and they kind of ran with it and what it came up with,” Reese said. “I gave a little bit of input, but the majority of it came from them two guys.”
Meanwhile, Reese did much of the work under the hood, the mechanical side of it, and Grabanski assisted him. Both Reese and Grabanski had fathers who were police officers.
“We all felt that for how much bad publicity police have been getting, especially in the last year or so,” Reese said, “that this is a, whether it be a snowmobile or sign or just something to get people to stop and look and trigger that thing in your head to what policemen and Sheriff’s Department… law enforcement in general go through (on) a day-to-day (basis).”
Having a police officer as a father pushed Reese a little more while building this snowmobile.
“Being it was dedicated to a policeman, it gave me a little more drive,” Reese said. “… It was fulfilling once it was done for sure. It felt good to see it, especially in Rydell’s (in Grand Forks).”
After being on display at Rydell’s, it went on display at different Grand Forks locations, including at Home of Economy and then a police 5K run.
After starting on it just prior to Christmas 2019, Reese officially completed it on July 14— the day Sullivan and Grabanski picked it up from Reese’s place and hauled it back to Grand Forks.
“I didn’t let Billy (Sullivan) see it until the day they picked it up, the finished product,” Reese said.
Reese spent many late nights working on this snowmobile. Asked if it was all worth it, Reese responded without hesitancy.
“Yes. Yes. And to see the smile on Billy’s face is pretty awesome,” Reese said, then pointing out one final detail on the snowmobile. “And that’s another detail that they got put on the hood is, ‘Hold the line.’”
This snowmobile is more than a ride. It’s another reminder of what police officers, such as Holte, Nord, and Reese’s father, have done on a daily basis.
To see the complete story, read the August 25 issue of The Tribune or the August 26 issue of the North Star News in print or online.