2017-09-07 / Front Page

1,500 Tractors Are Coming to Straits

Show and Parade This Weekend
By Erich T. Doerr

The 10th anniversary Owosso Tractor Parts Antique Tractor Show and Parade is coming to St. Ignace and Mackinaw City this weekend. The event will include a parade of classic tractors across the Mackinac Bridge Friday morning, September 8, leading into displays of the tractors Friday afternoon and Saturday, September 9, on the grounds of St. Ignace’s Little Bear East Arena. Admission to all of the weekend’s tractor displays is free.

“People are getting excited,” show organizer Bob Baumgras said. “They are all wound up like a two-day Tinkertoy.”

Registration for this year’s parade was capped at an event-record 1,500 tractors and while it is likely some of those will not be able to make it, all signs point to this year’s event breaking last year’s record of 1,326 for the parade. Registration began in January and proved so popular that organizers had to turn some people away. The parade will follow a one-way route from Mackinaw City to St. Ignace. Mr. Baumgras said the parade tries to promote both sides of the Straits of Mackinac, with good viewing areas for the procession available on either side of the bridge.

“There are a lot of clubs who have come all 10 years,” Mr. Baumgras said. “We’re going to give a plaque to all the clubs who have been here every year to commemorate their 10th anniversary participation.”

The staging area and starting point for the bridge parade is the Darrow Brothers Excavating gravel pit in Mackinaw City on West Central Avenue. Tractors will begin arriving Wednesday, September 6, and Thursday, September 7, with public viewing of the machines available at the staging area Thursday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. In St. Ignace, the public displays at Little Bear East Arena after the parade will be from their arrival Friday morning until 5 p.m., then from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the main display Saturday.

The parade will take place Friday morning, with all participants instructed to be ready to go by 7:30 a.m. The opening ceremonies will begin at 8 a.m. before the parade starts at 9 a.m. Most of the tractors will proceed down West Central Avenue, then turn left onto North Nicolet Street as they make their way toward the Mackinac Bridge’s entrance ramp. About 300 of the tractors will instead go and stage at the Mackinaw Crossings mall parking lot, then set off again sometime between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. for a parade through downtown Mackinaw City on their way to the bridge.

The first tractors should reach the Upper Peninsula at around 9:30 a.m. Once they are off the bridge, the tractors will come through downtown St. Ignace on the I-75 Business Loop before turning left at either Reagon Street or Marquette Street, at police discretion, to reach the arena. The tractors should begin arriving at the arena around 10 a.m., with the display beginning immediately afterward. All of the tractors are expected to complete the parade route by 3 p.m. After the parade reaches St. Ignace the earlier arrivals will be able to enjoy a lunch for participants from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. inside the arena. A private hog roast to show appreciation to club officials and longtime event participants will also take place in conjunction with the show Friday evening.

“The people who drive these tractors are always grinning ear to ear,” Mr. Baumgras said. “They always have so much fun.”

All tractors must maintain a 10 mile-per-hour minimum speed, a move that aims to get people to pay more attention to driving their tractors and reduce or eliminate any gaps forming in the lineup. Mr. Baumgras said organizers don’t want drivers hanging back to create a gap so they can drive faster later, or getting too caught up in waving to spectators to maintain the minimum speed.

Previous years have also seen gaps in the parade caused by tractors breaking down. Drivers are told before they set off their tractors should be in good working order to minimize the risk of having to stop on the bridge.

Mr. Baumgras credited the Straits area’s various police agencies including the Mackinaw City Police Department, St. Ignace Police Department, Mackinac County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police, and Sault Tribal Police plus the Mackinac Bridge Authority as being vital to the event’s success. This year’s parade will feature Mackinac County Sheriff Scott Strait as its grand marshal in recognition of his longtime support of the event. He has been a participant in the parade several times before and will be driving a Farmall F-20 during this year’s festivities.

Mr. Baumgras will lead the parade across the bridge himself for the first time this year. The procession’s lead tractor will be the 1941 Farmall H of his 16-year-old granddaughter Haven Canze. Mr. Baumgras will drive the tractor for the start of the parade, with Haven riding alongside, before handing over the controls to her father Jeremy Canze once it reaches the Upper Peninsula. The Farmall has been freshly restored in preparation for the crossing.

Closing ceremonies will be at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, leading into a final parade of the tractors through St. Ignace at 4:30 p.m. The parade will start on Marquette Street before working its way south on the business loop then doubling back and going north to the Mackinac County Airport. This procession is sometimes called the “chain of tractors” since it will feature them lined up and travelling in both directions on the business loop at the same time.

“There is plenty to watch,” Mr. Baumgras said of Saturday’s parade. “Bring your lawn chair and have a ball.”

The parades are restricted to tractors that are at least 40 years old. The tractors in this year’s procession must be from 1977 or earlier, but Mr. Baumgras noted a few exceptions are made for special or rare models. All tractors must be powered by gasoline or diesel engines and drive on rubber tires. Steampowered tractors are not allowed.

This year’s procession will include members representing 53 antique tractor clubs from across the United States, an increase from the 48 that took part in the 2016 parade. The Heart of Michigan Antique Tractor Club, a new group that formed last year, will make its debut in the parade with a 150-strong contingent of classic machines. The group’s members are also volunteering to help park tractors for the show once they reach St. Ignace. A New York club is also joining the parade this year with 18 tractors.

The show’s participants are entered from across the United States with some coming from as far away as Texas, California, Florida, and Iowa. The 2016 parade featured an Alaskan entry and Mr. Baumgras said one might be included again this time.

Tractors usually seat only one person, but some of the parade entrants have been modified to seat more. Any tractor in the parade that has been outfitted with additional seats, such as one for a buddy rider up front or a rear bench seat, must be inspected by the organizers to confirm they are safe before they are allowed into the lineup. Younger riders need to be at least 16 to be in the buddy rider position with children aged 13 and older allowed on the back benches if accompanied by an adult.

Ojibway Trail just in front of the arena will host a series of tractor games throughout both Friday afternoon and Saturday. The games will run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Friday’s games will include “don’t spill the water,” a reverse race, a competition pushing a barrel through an obstacle course, and a ring toss from a tractor involving hula hoops. Saturday’s games will include a golf ball balancing contest, a slow speed race where last place is the winner, a ball drop competition, and a two-person garment race involving the tractor driver dressing his or her teammate.

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