Colorfully decorated Walters home was big target for runaway sled

The Walters family of southeast Pelican Rapids are without a garage door, as winter sets in, following a fateful collision when a snowmobile—with its throttle stuck–– crashed into the garage.

The most colorfully decked out home in the far southeast sector of Pelican Rapids is such a holiday spectacle, that folks are racing to view the display. 

That notion went through Chaz Walters’ mind, after a snowmobile crashed through his garage door December 18, shortly before 5 p.m. 

The crash occurred because the throttle stuck on the snowmobile, prompting the rider to bail out as the sled—literally—flew into the garage door.

Maplewood Drive is a well-traveled street every December, when the Walters family creates one of the most elaborate Christmas light displays in town. But, for the most part, vehicles come by at a snail’s pace to inspect the holiday handiwork.

The story starts about 4:30 p.m., when Chaz and two of the kids, Ethan and Addisyn, backed out of the garage early—to get a good seat at the Just for Kix dance show on the other side of town. Wife Josie, was running late, so drove to the show herself a little later—closer to 5 p.m. 

Shortly after she backed out and closed the garage door, the snowmobile collided. “It completely took out the garage door,” said Chaz. 

“I left for the show earlier to try to get decent seats,” said Chaz. “I just sat down (at the Pelican school gym) when I got a call from my son…‘Dad, you better get home, a snowmobile hit the garage.’”

Ethan stayed home from the dance show, and heard the loud crash. Moments later, there was a knock on the door with a guy apologizing for the damaged. 

The fellow had been working on the sled, on the other side of town. He got it started, and was going to take it to nearby pumps to put some fuel in the sled’s tank. 

Instead, he was in for “the ride of his life” when the throttle stuck. He apparently flew across Highway 59 and tried to pilot the sled to avoid hurting anybody and limiting damage to property. 

Fortunately, nobody was hurt, including the driver—but the Walters garage door was a big target. 

The entire incident is captured on video. An exterior camera captured the sled as it collided with the door—and a camera inside the garage show the sled careening into the garage. 

“The crazy part of it, this was one of those times when you know somebody is looking out for you,” said Walters. “My wife backed out 30 seconds before the accident…on the video, you can see her passing the snowmobile, the headlights of the snowmobile coming toward the garage.”

Josie didn’t see the collision, and drove on to the show. 

In the video, it shows the driver trying to figure the “best time to bail out” without hurting somebody and doing the least damage, said Chaz. “It’s quite a sight to see.”

 Pelican police officers arrived within minutes, said Walters, crediting the officers for a speedy response. An Otter Tail deputy also arrived shortly. 

An interior view of the Walters’ garages, with snowmobile parked on the pavement after breaking through the garage door.

Deemed an “accident,” the snowmobile driver wasn’t ticketed by the police, who concluded it was a civil matter between the two parties insurers. (The Pelican Press is not disclosing of name of the sled owner, as this story goes to press.) 

“I really feel for the guy…I’m not mad, whatsoever,” said Chaz, who said the damage was mainly the door—but some damages in the garage, too. 

Video cameras were installed by Chaz because his mailbox has been damaged several times over the years. Because of the configuration of the Walters lot, it is not only a great spot for holiday decor—but his mailbox is also unusually susceptible to collision, especially in snowy winter conditions. 

With the makeshift, plastic covering to the door-less garage, Chaz Walters with his kids—Ethan, 16, Colton, 13, and Addisyn, 12. It was Colton, home alone, who heard the crash as the runaway snowmobile collided with the family’s garage door.

Unfortunately, replacement of the garage door is going to be a complication. Because of all the widely publicized supply chain shortages and difficulty with building materials, it could be up to six months. 

Chaz Walters, a familiar face at Lakeland General Store-Dunvilla for about 15 years, with the power and lawn equipment department, said Lakeland has been working on a garage door replacement at the business—and vendors said it could be up to a year to replace the door there. 

Right now, plastic sheeting is covering the gap, and he planned to makeshift something “semi-permanent” for the near future. “We’ll have to park the cars outside for the winter,” said Chaz. 

 The final question for the Walters: “Were any of the elaborate holiday decorations damaged from the accident?” 

“None of the lights were touched,” laughed Chaz. 

So, one of the brightest, cheeriest spots in Pelican Rapids will still be decked for the holidays. 

It is so illuminated, you can’t miss the Walters its the place south and east of Larry’s Super Market. 

The place with the exclusive, customized, see-through garage door.