RANGELEY – Friends and relatives of missing snowmobilers huddled with Rangeley community members Friday evening for a vigil geared toward beginning the healing process and preventing further tragedy.

Despite a wind-chill advisory and single-digit temperatures, a crowd of 50 gathered for the vigil, holding glow sticks and embracing each other during the ceremony.

Ken Henderson Sr., father of missing snowmobiler Ken Henderson, came from Augusta to attend the ceremony.

“He wasn’t just my son; he was my best friend,” he said.

Henderson said despite recent controversy about the Snodeo, he is glad the event continued and is thankful for the community. “I don’t care what anyone says. These people have been terrific,” he said.

Snodeo organizers were criticized publicly last week by people close to one of three missing snowmobilers who are thought to have drowned in the lake the night of Dec. 31. The critics thought the event should be postponed until the missing snomobilers are recovered.

However, relatives of Henderson, 40, of China, said they think Henderson, an avid snowmobiler, would have supported the Snodeo.

They called the festival a wonderful tradition for a community that opened its doors in support of the grieving families.

Snodeo is an annual three-day snomobile festival held Thursday through Saturday. The event is one of the community’s biggest events of the year. Local businesses have been as packed as usual this year, and hotel rooms were booked months in advance.