Antique tractor owners love to show off their vintage implements by parading them through towns across the United States. However, from the tractor seat there is only one parade that boasts a majestic view like no other.
The Mackinac Bridge Antique Tractor Crossing is not only the largest antique tractor parade in Michigan, it also offers the most unique, picturesque, adrenaline pumping ride – just ask any of the 3,034 participants who have crossed since the annual event was created in 2008.
Bob Baumgras, owner of Owosso Tractor Parts, is the mastermind and coordinator of the event, set for Sept. 14 this year.
The Friday 9 a.m. crossing has 39 clubs with 809 tractors currently registered. Drivers must be part of an insured club, and this year they come from as far away as California. Other drivers originate from Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Tractors must be able to cruise at least 10 mph, and be built in 1972 and before.
Tractors arrive the day before the event and are staged in a field just outside of Mackinaw City according to their respective clubs. Baumgras has clubs divided into two groups. The first group is lined up and leaves the staging area directly for the bridge, while the second group parades through Mackinaw City before crossing the bridge.
Once across the bridge, the participants parade through St. Ignace to Kewadin Shores Casino, which is five miles north of St. Ignace. "It's about a 3 ½-hour-parade covering about 18 miles," Baumgras says.
For its fifth year, Baumgras has modified the rules – and he says it will likely be the only time – to allow for a buddy rider if the seat is approved by Owosso Tractor Parts and the driver's club president.
Previously, only the driver could be on the tractor for the crossing. That's good news for Benjamin Camp, who is getting married that morning and driving his new bride across the bridge. His club, the Kalamazoo Valley Antique Engine and Machinery Club, boasts the most entries this year with 324 and will be the last club to cross. They will be followed by Baumgras, who always anchors the event. However, this year, for the first time, he is making the trek across on an antique tractor -- a 4000 Ford pre-1964 borrowed from a club member who lives by the bridge. "Mine wasn't ready," he says.