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Yearly Michigan harvest festival swells tiny town
By BRETT McKAY
Michigan Correspondent

MANTON, Mich. — Throughout most of the year Manton is a stereotypical small, northern Michigan community. One blinking stoplight controls the traffic in this sleepy little town.

Schoolchildren in Manton begin kindergarten and graduate high school within the same building. And small black buggies pulled by horses and steered by their drivers is a fairly common sight as a community of Amish families call home the area surrounding Manton.

Manton is small, and most of its residents like it that way. But on every Labor Day weekend, this town comes to life thanks to one of the state’s most popular attractions, the Manton Area Harvest Festival.

Now in its 81st year, the harvest festival offers family fun while keeping its rural sensibilities.

Children play games and enjoy rides throughout the midway as they stuff themselves with cotton candy and elephant ears, while old-time country music wafts through the air. Pony rides and a small petting zoo also serve to entertain.

Still, others enjoy the craft show in the park and watching Lonnie Glines of Harrison, Mich. create works of art out of logs using his chain saw and chisel.

Among the more popular festival events is the heavyweight horse pull. Teams of mostly Belgian horses show off their power and might as they compete pulling thousands of pounds of concrete.

Each horse team starts out with lighter weights, but heavier weight is continually added as the tournament progresses. Horses need to stay within a designated area while dragging the weighted boat 27 feet, 6 inches. The winning team last year was 9,500 pounds. In recent years, horses have pulled more than 12,000 pounds.

Hib Kuiper has been bringing his team of Belgian’s from Jamestown, Mich., for the last four years.

“It’s kind of our tradition for Labor Day,” he said.

The weekend activities culminate with a parade on the final day. Streets are closed to allow floats, high school bands, classic cars and military veterans to make their way through town.

Published in the September 14, 2005 issue of Farm World.

10/26/2005