In the four years since the Ixonia Vintage Tractor Club started, members have held three successful antique power shows, hosted plow day events, crossed over the mighty Mackinac Bridge with their tractors and raised thousands of dollars for local charities.
As spring approaches, the club is preparing for their fourth year of activities, including the annual antique power expo at the Ixonia Fireman's Park on Memorial Day weekend.
One of the more unique projects this club is undertaking this year is a 400-mile tractor drive to the Mackinac Bridge crossing event.
During the last couple of years, the club had quite a few members make the trip to Michigan to take part in the annual 22-mile tractor parade that includes a drive across the 5-mile-long Mackinac Bridge. This year, they decided to continue that activity and expand on it by having twelve of the 20 or so tractors drive up to the event.
Organizers expect the drive to take three or four days, and several charities will be the beneficiaries of this unique event, including Rainbow House (shelter) at St. Ignace, home of the annual Macinac Bridge Crossing event; some food pantries; Honor Flight; and the Brian Haumschield family whose 6-year-old son has numerous health issues.
The trip was the brainstorm of brothers John and Luke Pernat whose dad, Curt, is president of the Ixonia Vintage Tractor Club.
John works for Tag Lane Farm at Ixonia and said, "When we're chopping hay, we sit on that tractor seat for eight hours or more a day. We figured why not sit on a tractor seat on a trip like this.
"Actually sitting on the tractor that many hours in a day is not the hard part of this event. The real work is planning everything out."
They are in the midst of planning the caravan route, making arrangements with local law enforcement agencies and contacting chambers of commerce in some of the towns they will pass through on the nearly 400-mile trip.
The club is currently soliciting donations from businesses and individuals for the named charities. Already the club has had numerous pledges to support their project.
John said initially many people didn't think the group would seriously drive that far with their tractors, but as plans began to materialize, these skeptics have become strong supporters.
John said an important part of their plans is to donate to groups that do not have administration costs. "We want all our funds to go directly to the beneficiary."
As for the donation to the Pipersville family, John said he and his brother have children and realize what a blessing it is that they are healthy. He knows childhood illnesses can put a real stress on a family and their finances.
"Raising funds through the event is what makes it all worthwhile," he said. "At the end of the day, we get to hang up our hats and enjoy our homes and our families. Some people don't have it that good and have issues to deal with throughout their lives."
To make the trip to Michigan, a tractor must have a road speed of 15 miles per hour and must be in good enough mechanical shape to make the trip. The club is limiting the number to 12 in order to prevent problems with traffic along the way.
Planning a trip like this is no easy task. The group is mapping out a route that includes parks or rest stops where they can stop for a picnic lunch and break. They also need to make sure they are in a town that has lodging each night of the trip.
A couple of tractors may pull a trailer containing food for donation to the food pantries and other supplies. A chase vehicle will also follow the group.
The club will haul other tractors to the bridge crossing event, and drivers and spectators will travel to the event via bus. Anyone interested in attending the annual Mackinac Bridge Crossing event is invited to join the group on the bus. Prices will be determined by the number of participants.
The tractors that will be used for the drive to the Mackinac will have a special area at the Ixonia Vintage Tractor Expo on Memorial Day weekend.
That expo begins Friday, May 23, with a 25-mile tractor ride through the area between Lebanon and Ixonia. The ride will leave at noon on Friday and plans to arrive in Ixonia by 5 p.m., in time for the fish fry that kicks off the weekend activities. The tractor ride will also include a people-hauler for family members to participate in the trip.
To learn more about the expo or to make a donation to the 400-mile fundraising Mackinac tractor ride, contact John Pernat at (920) 285-2400 or Luke Pernat at (262) 719-6669.