Rural Heritage Days Makes Its Debut

Leo and Art Blekkenhorst cut the barley

The 83rd Annual Slate River Plowing Match was presented as a part of Rural Heritage Days for the first time this past fall. The two-day event was held at the usual plowing match location on Hwy 130, just west of Thunder Bay. It took place on the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 11 and all day Saturday, Sept. 12.

Plowing remained the heart of activities. OPA (Ontario Plowmen’s Association) Judge Wayne Downie from the Hamilton area hosted a well received plowman’s clinic on Friday afternoon and judged the competitive plowing classes on Saturday. Wayne enjoyed the event and has requested to return next year. Fred Boulter earned the overall Grand Championship for plowing.

Hemke Vanderzwaag drove the oldest running tractor, a 1920 Fordson.

As the new name suggests, many other things related to agricultural life and history were part of the event. The Blekkenhorst families ran harvest demonstrations periodically throughout the two days. Barley was cut with a binder, stooked and threshed; the thresher was driven with a 1920s era tractor. The binder, tractor and threshing machine were all McCormick-Deering machines. The barley was also ground into flour suitable for animal feed. The dynamometer, although not directly related to harvesting, was popular among many tractor owners who seized the opportunity to check their horsepower.

Tractor rodeo was back and provided good fun for participants and spectators on Friday evening, Saturday morning and later on Saturday afternoon. Wagon backing, the Kerchner string game, the tandem lift & carry and several more contests tested the operator’s speed and driving skill. Drivers were good sports throughout and even supported the egg and spoon race. When the fun ended, Jason Blekkenhorst won the rodeo trophy.

The antique tractors were the biggest showing and variety in recent memory; the tractor parade on Saturday afternoon was a big one with almost 50 tractors entered. Best original was John Hanna’s 1963 John Deere 5010 and the oldest running tractor was Hemke Vanderzwaag’s 1920 Fordson.

Oldest tractor
Hemke Vanderzwaag drove the oldest running tractor, a 1920 Fordson.

Around the grounds, Thunder Bay Cattlemen’s Association, Kakabeka Tired Iron Club, Founders’ Museum and antique car clubs had well attended displays and demonstrations. As usual, when the weather is good, the BMO volunteers were busy at the gate processing over 500 spectators on Saturday.

The support of more than 80 local businesses, led by Thunder Bay Co-operative Farm Supplies and Bank of Montreal, made the match possible.

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