By Graham Sturgeon, staff writer
Owosso Tractor Parts of Shiawassee County will be hosting their eighth-annual Antique Tractor Parade & Show on Sept. 11 and 12, with St. Ignace being the official host city for the two-day event.
The parade of approximately 1,000 tractors from all over the country will be staged just outside of Mackinaw City before commencing on the parade across the Mackinac Bridge to St. Ignace. About two-thirds of the tractors will begin crossing the bridge at 9 a.m., with the remaining tractors parading through Mackinaw City starting at 10 a.m. before crossing the bridge. The entire group will then delight the town of St. Ignace with a parade on that side of the bridge before staging the tractors at Little Bear East Arena in St. Ignace.
Event organizer and Owosso Tractor Parts owner Bob Baumgras had registered 1,075 tractors and another 150 “buddy riders” for this year’s event at press time, but he said that he can usually expect 10 to 15 percent of those registered to not cross. He is trying to get to that 1,000-tractor mark for the first time.
“The first year, in 2008, we had 614 tractors in the parade,” Baumgras said. “We’ve been close to that 1,000 mark a few times, but we just haven’t been able to get there. I’m really hoping that this is the year. Every year I am surprised that it keeps getting better and bigger. We have 38 tractor clubs participating this year, which is the most we have had.”
The funny thing is, Baumgras never intended to be the organizer for such a large, nationwide event. When he met with the Mackinac Bridge Authority in December 2007, he went to simply propose an idea, or to “help them out” as he says. The group liked his idea so much that they asked him when he could start. So, every year, Baumgras shuts down his shop west of Owosso and makes the trip up North to host families from all over the country on their “bucket list” trip across the bridge.
“One of the best parts about the bridge crossing is that it brings people from all over the country,” Baumgras said. “I have been told that this event is on a lot of peoples’ bucket lists. I have met families of 20 or 30 who have come to watch their dad or brother cross the bridge on their family tractor. This has turned into an annual family vacation for a lot of people, which makes it even more special.”
With the parade falling on Sept. 11 this year, Baumgras and his organizers are planning a special 9/11 tribute for the morning before the parade, and there will be a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. to commemorate the impact on the first tower at the World Trade Center in New York.
While the bridge crossing may be the main attraction, the event will just be getting started when it rolls into St. Ignace Friday morning. In addition to antique tractor viewing, spectators will also be treated to live music and tractor games both days, and there will be fireworks and another parade on Saturday in St. Ignace.
Not everyone will be able to make the trip up to the bridge for the event, but don’t worry, because Bob has you covered. He informed The Independent that those interested in viewing the parade will be able to log onto the Mackinaw Bridge Authority website and witness the event on their bridge cameras. Classic Tractor Fever from RFD TV will also be on hand to record the weekend event from the bridge and from the air. Their production will not be available until later, however. More information can be found at owossotractorparts.com.