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Heritage Tractor Adventure to spotlight an Illinois canal
By DEBORAH BEHRENDS
Illinois Correspondent

STREATOR, Ill. — The 5th annual Heritage Tractor Adventure is more than just an opportunity to show off antique tractors ... although that’s a lot of it.

According to one of its coordinators, Wayne Withers of Newark, Ill., the Adventure is an opportunity to teach participants and spectators about the history of the Illinois & Michigan Canal. The Adventure follows the canal from Streator to Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Ill.

“At one time, that canal was a major thoroughfare through Illinois,” he said. “We’re fortunate to be able to use part of it to drive our tractors down. We’re trying to publicize the fact that it’s still there with a bike and walking path alongside it.”

Created five years ago by national farm broadcaster Max Armstrong, Withers said he believes about 400 tractors are registered for the Adventure, which takes place Saturday, June 10 through Wednesday, June 14. Withers said a similar drive in Iowa started about 5-6 years ago. He said it was a publicity stunt for a radio station.

“We put together one of the more eventful drives. Of course we have Max (Armstrong) and Orion (Samuelson) with us for at least part of the time, but we also supply mechanics,” Withers said.

Don Martindale, owner of Martindale Farm Services of Princeville, Ill., is one of the mechanics who volunteers his time.

Martindale, also a collector and professional restorer of antique tractors, volunteers his time. If a tractor breaks down, he does his best to repair it, and knows where to get parts all along the route.

“After I fix the tractor they ask, ‘What do I owe you?’ My response is, ‘What’s it worth to you?’ The participants are always very generous,” Martindale said.

Kevin Kunkel of Bushnell Equipment in Bushnell, Ill., also volunteers as an adventure mechanic.

Withers said this drive also supplies gas for the tractors, unlike some of the others.

“That’s part of what their registration fee pays for,” Withers said. He also credited local, county and state police with providing excellent traffic control and protection all along the route.

“They go above and beyond to make sure we have good protection,” he said.

When signing up, drivers pay a $175 fee and $75 for each additional driver who wants to participate. Withers said families often want to take turns driving.

While meals are not provided, they are available at a low cost. Participants also are given information on lodging.

The event starts at Marilla Park in Streator. The public is invited to view the tractors, talk to the drivers and enjoy the entertainment provided. On Sunday, drivers are invited to participate in tractor games at the Streator Airport.

The journey begins on Monday morning and the day ends at the Grundy County Fairgrounds in Morris, Ill. On Tuesday, the procession will travel from Morris to the Peru Mall in Peru, Ill. On Wednesday, drivers will go from Peru to Matthiessen State Park in Utica, Ill.

For more information on the adventure, as well as registration material, visit www.heritagetractoradventure.com

This farm news was published in the June 7, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

6/7/2006