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Gloria Hafemeister completed the 18-mile trip that included travelling across the Mackinac Bridge.<br /><br />

Gloria Hafemeister completed the 18-mile trip that included travelling across the Mackinac Bridge.

Photo By Gloria Hafemeister

Over 900 tractors cross the Mackinac Bridge

Sept. 12, 2013 | 0 comments


Smoke filled the heavy morning air in Mackinaw City, MI, Friday, Sept. 6, and the putt-putt-putt of more than 900 tractors rumbled through the staging grounds as antique tractor enthusiasts prepared for an 18-mile tractor ride that would include a trek across the mighty Mackinac Bridge.

Sixteen tractors were driven by members of the Ixonia Vintage Tractor club. One of the rules for participating is that drivers need to be a member of a tractor club.

It was a rerun of the trip for several of the members of the Ixonia club, whose enthusiasm for the event led others to join the group this year.

Local tractor enthusiasts who took part in last year’s event say it was cool and windy and even rained some during last year’s event but that didn’t keep them from going back to do it again.

Weather for this year’s event was comfortable and sunny, adding to the excitement of viewing the bridge from a tractor seat.

Curt Pernat, Ixonia, and his wife, Mary, and their family all participated last year and again this year.

Tom Triplett, Red Walters and Gary Skalitzky also repeated the drive after enjoying last year’s event.

Their enthusiasm for the event convinced Wisconsin State Farmer reporter, Gloria Hafemeister, to join them, driving a Super "M" owned by Triplett.

The antique tractor crossing event was dreamed up by Bob Baumgras of Owosso Tractor parts in 2008 when he noticed that the bridge had all sorts of crossings including bikes, walkers, motorcycles and trucks.

When he organized the first event he expected about 300 tractors but found more than twice that number showed up. The number of participants has increased each year.

Participants in this year’s parade came from clubs in Wisconsin, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois and California and even Canada. The majority of the participants were from Michigan clubs.

The antique heavyweights travelled from Mackinaw City, across the five-mile bridge and through St. Ignace. The tractors used the outside lane on the four-lane bridge with other vehicles passing on the inside lane next to them.

Chugging along at an average speed of just over five miles per hour, the trip takes about three-and-a-half hours.

It took nearly an hour for the organizers to usher the tractors from the staging lot onto the road leading to the bridge. Spectators lined the streets leading to the final destination where the tractors were displayed.

"My main reason for this is to see the participants have fun crossing the mighty Mac," Baumgras says.

When he initially suggested it to the Mackinac Bridge Authority they not only agreed to it but they asked him to organize it.

As word spread among antique tractor collector clubs throughout the country, enthusiasm grew and each year more tractor bugs accept the challenge.

Baumgras says it does more than bring together tractor enthusiasts from different geographies. It also brings together many things of the past that were and still are part of Michigan’s heritage.

He says, "It’s a past that people want to remember - when times were not necessarily easier but memorable. The spirit of Michigan lives on in these old chunks of iron called tractors."

A variety of brands of tractors participated in the event, all built in 1973 or earlier. There were also some unique home-made tractors and some tractors had implements mounted on them.

Drivers, men and women, ranged in age from 18-90.

The Mackinac Bridge opened November, 1957, to span the Straights of Mackinac and connect Upper Michigan with the lower mitten.

The bridge is five miles in length and towers are 500-feet tall. The bridge is 200 feet at mid-span above the water.

The gradual slope climbing the bridge can fool drivers who found they needed to shift gears often as the speeds of the parade varied.

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