Farm Horizons, November 2010

Northland Oliver Club enjoys sixth-annual tractor ride

By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

The Northland Oliver Collectors Association had its sixth annual tractor ride Sept. 11, in large part due to the hard work of Mel Bjur of Cokato. Bjur has been helping to plan the route for the tractor ride for about four years.

The Northland Oliver Collectors Association is a non-profit club dedicated to promoting the history of Hart-Parr, Oliver, and related companies acquired by Hart-Parr and Oliver. It strives to promote the collection and preservation of Hart-Parr and Oliver machinery and memorabilia, and educate the general public about Oliver farm equipment.

Established in 1997, it has over 100 members from the midwest, and is active throughout the year with numerous club events, including, live demonstrations during the Wright County Fair, the annual tractor ride, plow day, and many other events.

The tractor ride always starts at the Wright County Fairgrounds in Howard Lake. Each year, a different route is planned for the ride, Bjur said.

The first year that the ride took place, Luke Cain of Buffalo, who cofounded the Northland Oliver Collectors Association, and a member of the club, John Anderson of Montrose, planned the route for the ride, according to Bjur.

The second year, another member of the club, Jim Crouch of Waverly, and Bjur worked together to plan the route. Even though he was not an official member of the tractor club, Bjur enjoyed doing all he could to help out, he said.

Because of all his hard work, the Northland Oliver Collectors Association gave Bjur an honorary membership. Ever since that second year, Bjur has planned the route for the tractor ride by himself.

“He’s like the Energizer bunny; he never stops. He does so much for the club and the tractor ride,” Crouch said.

While planning the ride, Bjur makes sure the route takes them by at least one nursing home. The residents really enjoy seeing the tractors on parade, Bjur said.

Three years ago, Bjur was able to plan a route that went past three different nursing homes, the Howard Lake Good Samaritan Society, Cokato Manor, and Dassel Lakeside Healthcare Center.

Bjur also needs to find areas that would be good stops along the route for a coffee break mid-morning and lunch, he said. Charlie Bush of Waverly, who owns Charlie’s Catering, said he has followed the tractors for the last five years with his catering truck.

This year, there was a coffee break at Bill Anderson Memorial Park on County Road 7. The lunch stop was at Robert E. Ney Memorial Park on County Road 8 near Maple Lake.

Bjur said he tries to use gravel roads as much as possible when planning the route for the ride. When a major roadway has to be crossed, the Wright County Sheriff’s Department and Howard Lake Police help with traffic control, he said.

During the tractor ride, Bjur does not ride on a tractor, but helps with directing traffic. There are about half a dozen vehicles that lead the ride and act as traffic guards, according to Crouch.

As part of the planning for the tractor ride, Bjur has to contact all the right authorities. He has to get permission to stop in the parks, and permission to use the fairground. He also has to inform the sheriff’s office and police department about the route and when their help will be needed. And, of course, he makes sure to notify the nursing homes about what time the ride will be passing by.

This year, about 50 tractors signed up for the annual tractor ride, which is a big leap from last year, when there were only about 34 tractors.

The route this year started at the Wright County Fairgrounds, followed County Road 7 to Maple Lake, and then followed County Road 8 back to Howard Lake, using gravel roads as much as possible.

After the ride, the Northland Oliver Collectors Association gave out door prizes, that they had collected from local businesses, to ride participants. Nearly every participant received a prize, according to Crouch.

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