The world moved at a slower pace as 46 people on tractors rode a 30-mile route along backcountry roads and main thoroughfares of western Massachusetts during the 7th Annual Tractor Ride on May 18. At 12 miles an hour, the convoy drove through the towns of Cummington, Peru, Windsor, Savoy and West Cummington, then back to their starting point at Cummington Fairgrounds for a chicken barbecue.
The event was organized by the Hillside Agricultural Tractor and Engine Club. Part of the proceeds from the entry fee will go toward the Hampshire County 4-H Fair, Berkshire County 4-H Fair and Massachusetts Future Farmers of America. Ninety people in all enjoyed their barbecue lunch.
Tractors dating back to the early ‘40s and some “just off the shelf” left the fairgrounds at 9:30 a.m. and arrived back at 1 p.m. Their route had been published prior to the ride. Along the way, “People landed in two to three places” to wave to the convoy as it drove along, according to Francis Judd of Goshen, MA, one of the event organizers.
Judd has been driving tractors for 50 years, and has 20 tractors at his farm in Goshen on Route 9, where he has lived all his life. He uses some of them for haying to feed his Belted Galloways.
“Some of them need to be restored,” said Judd. He still owns two Farmall tractors that his father George bought back in the ‘40s. One they have rebuilt, and the other is restored.
He rode one of those tractors on the first tractor ride. “We rode on Route 9 through the center of Windsor. My father used to go haying in Windsor. The tractor was eight or 10 at the time.” They passed the approximately 35-acre field where his father hayed in 1954.
His father also worked with horses, and passed his love of tractors and horses to his son. “It’s a hobby. My father used to train workhorses in his younger days.” He also used them to log in winter in the ‘40s, Judd said.
When Judd’s father passed away, “I bought a pair of Belgians. My oldest son Albert takes care of them 99 percent of the time,” said Judd.
Each tractor ride is made in memory of people who have been involved with tractors in some way. This ride was in memory of Norman French who was a collector of Case tractors. Along with his wife Thelma, he had founded Orchard Equipment and Supply in Conway, supplying apple producers and landscapers with equipment, according to Judd. It is now called OESCO Inc. and run by his son Russell French, and also supplies forestry equipment. “His son Russ rides with us,” said Judd.
The idea for a tractor ride occurred when Judd and a few other members viewed a tractor ride on RFD-TV. Inspired, they put a route in place and made it happen.
All that was required of the riders was that they have a valid driver’s license, be equipped with a slow-moving vehicle sign, that their tractor be in good working order and able to drive at 12 miles an hour, with only one driver per vehicle, with no passengers or trailers.
Riders came from as near as Belchertown and Colrain and as far away as North Haven, CT. “They said, ‘Make sure to let us know when it’s happening next year, because we’re coming back,’” said Judd.
Back at the fairgrounds, another popular attraction was the Kids Corner, where children rode pedal tractors. The committee sponsored the Southern Vermont Youth Tractor Pullers, so they could put a pull for themselves during the day.
All in all, “It was a good time. The weather was nice. It was a nice day to ride a tractor,” said Judd, already looking forward to planning next year’s ride.