A rare display of moving colors greeted motorists in northern Michigan last September, when more than 560 tractors crossed the Mackinac Bridge into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The first-ever Mackinac Bridge crossing drew vintage iron enthusiasts from 28 clubs throughout the Midwest.
The event was organized by Bob Baumgras of Owosso (Mich.) Tractor Parts. A year in the planning, the bridge crossing involved extensive coordination with local and state authorities. Bob said he envisioned a solid line of tractors “stretching as far as you can see.” On Sept. 12, 2008, that’s exactly what he got.
Led by two fire trucks, the nearly half-mile long procession got underway just after noon, passing first through Mackinaw City. As drivers crossed the bridge, they were treated to a breathtaking view of the Great Lakes. The tractors got a few looks too: In shades of John Deere green, Allis-Chalmers orange, Oliver green and International red, the vintage collectibles drew considerable interest from passing motorists, many shouting greetings through open windows.
Hundreds of spectators gathered at each end of the bridge got a rare opportunity to see an enormous variety of tractors on the move. Many were restored; others were in their original work clothes. Among the rare entrants were a John Deere 430 painted International red, a 3-wheeled Parrett, two Chamberlain tractors from Australia, five International Harvester maintainers and a fully restored Case 1200.
As tractors left the bridge and entered St. Ignace, Mich., they paraded through the downtown business district and then proceeded to the Kewadin Shores Casino, where they assembled for a weekend tractor show. The nearly 20-mile route took just 4-1/2 hours to travel. Tractors were grouped by club affiliation. Participants were given numbered placards for their tractors. At the end of the day, every tractor completed the course; there were no reported incidents. A second crossing is being planned now (no date has been announced). FC
Paul Stebleton lives in Michigan, where he and his son are restoring an Oliver 60.
Click here to watch the Mackinac Bridge crossing on YouTube. You can also find the video by visiting Farm Collector's video index, clicking on the Featured in Farm Collector playlist and choosing “Tractors Crossing Mackinaw Bridge.”