More than 920 tractors gathered in the gravel pit before the 2012 ride began. Submitted photo

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Tractor pullers take ride across Mackinac Bridge

Published 5:22pm Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More than 920 tractors and their drivers crossed the Straits of Mackinac Sept. 14 for the fifth annual Mackinac Bridge Antique Tractor Crossing. Top speed was 10 miles per hour.

Members of the Cass County Tractor Pullers took part in the five-mile ride, which included spectacular views as well as winds whipping across the famous steel structure.

The event draws several tractor clubs to Mackinaw City, where the weekend’s festivities begin by unloading the tractors into a gravel pit. Among those who made the crossing were Cass County club members Jesse Bement and Kevin Waldscmidt, who drove their Farmall tractors.

“In the gravel pit, the group is split into two sections and one goes on a parade through Mackinaw City while the other takes off on the bridge,” Bement said Monday. “One of the requirements is that the tractors maintain 10 mph, so it takes a little while for everyone to get across. The parade helps break up some of the time.”

Bement said the event, which culminates in an antique tractor show at Kewadin Shores Casino just north of St. Ignace,  draws thousands of spectators.

“It turns into a big tractor show,” Bement said.

Waldschmidt, who was recently elected as the Cass County Tractor Pullers president, said the experience of driving across the bridge with hundreds of other tractors in an open cab is unbeatable.

“You can look straight across either side of the bridge,” Waldschmidt said. “And when you look down, you can see straight to the water.”

Waldschmidt drove a 1948 Farmall M tractor and said that, while the ride gets people to the bridge, the weekend is full of activities.

“It’s not just the drive you go for,” Waldschmidt said. “You get such a variety up there.”

Bement said a truck show takes place in downtown St. Ignace over the weekend, too. Vendors sell ride-related merchandise.

“It’s a good time for everyone,” Bement said.

Waldschmidt agreed.

“It’s an awesome sight, seeing all these tractors in one spot,” he said.

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