By Jennifer Gallus
A near sold-out crowd enjoyed the sights of metal torn from combines like clothing, tires folding like cards, and eardrum popping sounds of punctured giant tires during Wednesday’s Combine Demolition Derby at the Wright County Fair.
This is the second year that the combine derby has taken place at the fair, and each year has been a smashing success.
Three heats were divided up based upon the type of head on the combine. One heat consisted of just bean heads, and there were two heats of combines with corn heads.
After each heat, a cleanup crew would scavenge a healthy amount of lost metal parts, debris, and lost tires that were victim to the smash fest, and load them into a bucket of a front-end loader.
Many safety rules are required for the combines and its drivers, from helmets and clothing requirements to on-board fire extinguishers and fuel allowances.
In fact, combines are only allowed 10 gallons of fuel per heat. They aren’t allowed to pop the big front tires in the first 10 minutes of the heat, except in the final round, which is almost an “anything goes” deal.
The combines were modified so that the heads could not move up or down, which was another rule requirement. The installation of seat belts were also required.
Combines with corn heads seemed to be at a disadvantage for a few participants. Once the head was thoroughly smashed up it would drop into the ground and render the machine basically immobile.
The top two combines in each heat moved on to the feature heat, which was the finals round.
The winner of a consolation heat, Alisha Painschab of Howard Lake, was also allowed into the feature heat.
Some combines that qualified for the consolation and feature heats were inoperable and had to forfeit.
The 16 participants in the derby were Joey Karels of Waverly, Nick Holm of Dassel, Dave Barka of Watkins, Mark Wienan of Arlington, Dale Bauman of Montrose, Brad Perschau of Glencoe, Nick Decker of Waverly, Neal Roessler of Monticello, Jeff Perschau of New Auburn, Ted Painschab of Howard Lake, Alisha Painschab of Howard Lake, Roger Halderson of Montrose, Ron Schulz of Monticello, Dan Glessing of Waverly, Ryan Peterson of Monticello, and Chad Pokornowski of Silver Lake.
Those who made it into the finals were Bauman, Brad Perschau, Decker, Halderson, Ted Painschab, Alisha Painschab, and Pokornowski.
Winners of the combine derby
The overall winner who took first place and took home $1,000 was Roger Halderson of Montrose. Halderson drove a Gleaner.
Second place and $750 went to Nick Decker of Waverly who drove a Massey Fergussen named “Mastitis Massey” painted to look like a cow, complete with udders under the back end.
Third place and $500 went to Brad Perschau of Glencoe who was last year’s first place winner.
The first and second place combines in each heat won $200 and $150 respectively. In the consolation round, first and second place combines earned $200 for first consolation and $100 for second consolation.
Best decorated combine and $100 went to Dale Bauman of Montrose whose combine was painted and decorated to look like a lady bug.
Second best decorated and $75 went to Alisha Painschab whose combine was painted as very girly complete with pink, glittery lips on the bean head and large, gold, hoop earrings.
Swather soccer during intermission was a hit
As the banged-up combines destined for the finals round made some repairs, a first-ever event called “Swather Soccer” took place in the arena.
“I think this may be the first time this has ever been done in the whole world,” laughed combine committee member Ron Denn.
Old swathers that were once used to cut grain were brought back to life as a means in which operators tried to push a foam-filled 55-gallon drum or “soccer ball” into a rectangular goal drawn in chalk on the field.
There were two team of swathers, three on each team. Those who participated in this event were Jim “Winnie” Weninger the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted FFA advisor, Erik Sawatzke, Jake Linder, Pat Bakeberg, Matt Lindberg, and Chris Roessler.
Each team scored three goals and the game ended in a tie. The winning team was to share $1,000 and the second place team was to share $500.