JEF JUDD can be seen competing in the mini excavator challenge during the heavy equipment rodeo at Great Lakes Fusion in Vernon on Saturday, Sept. 16. Judd began the timed challenge by attempting to scoop up basketballs with the excavator’s bucket and drop them into a barrel. He then picked up tractor tires and placed them into a designated area. The final part of the challenge called for Judd to pick up a cement-filled five gallon bucket and swing it through a tunnel of basketballs that were perched on cones. Time was added for every basketball knocked over, and the competitor with the fastest time was declared the winner.(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)


by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor

Heavy equipment operators from across Shiawassee County put on a show at Great Lakes Fusion in Vernon on Saturday, Sept. 16 for the 1st annual heavy equipment rodeo to benefit Project Pay It Forward. Owner Bryan Marks and Chief Operating Officer Randy Crawford organized the event, which included mini excavator, bulldozer, and skid steer competitions, a touch-a-truck and sand hill for youngsters, raffles, and Corunna Band Boosters and Richardson Meats food trucks.

Marks reports that approximately 150 people came out for the inaugural event, along with 24 competitors. The money raised during the event funds the company’s Project Pay It Forward (PPIF) charity, which was created in 2016. Through PPIF, 21 Thanksgiving meals and 25 bicycles were donated to county residents in 2016. Marks says he hopes to double that number this year.

The event was made possible with the help of Great Lakes Fusion’s equipment/tool vendors, AIS, Michigan Caterpillar, Alderman’s, and Alta Equipment; along with the support of Operating Engineers Local 324, which contributed financially and helped spread the word. Several Shiawassee County emergency responders participated as well, giving youngsters the chance to explore their vehicles.

The overall winner for the day was Brad Taylor, who won the bulldozer and skid steer competitions. Nate Trier won the mini excavator competition, 2nd place went to Chad Crawford, and Jeff Paivarinta came in third. In the bulldozer competition, Cameron Durocher finished second and Heath Salisbury came in third. Marty Judge was the runner-up in the skid steer competition, and Brandon Nemeth finished third.

Though many of the equipment operators were surprised with how difficult the challenges were, Marks says he received only glowing reports from the competitors. Organizers, participants, and spectators all seem to agree that the rodeo should become a regular event.

Heavy Equipment Rodeo Supports Community was last modified: September 25th, 2017 by Karen Elford