Top of the Morning, June 4, 2014
With a 10 mph speed limit, the Amish Country Tractor Cruise moves at a pace that is a tad slower than, say, the Indy 500.
"There's no trophy, either," organizer Jim Fleming said. "Just a good time."
In its fifth year, the Cruise is picking up fans if not speed. On June 14, Fleming is expecting a caravan up about 125 tractors to meet at Yoder's Kitchen in Arthur, parade down Vine Street and head toward Tuscola. There, the John Deere crowd will pit at Ervin Park before motoring down Main Street.
"What we try to do is highlight a different community each year," Fleming said. "This year it's Tuscola. Next year will probably be Lovington."
Participation requires $25, a tractor built before 1985 and some patience behind the wheel. Covering 50 miles in an International Harvester takes a while.
As for the traffic jam a 2-mile line of tractors can create?
"It's like a parade, so people just deal with it," Fleming said. "I'd say be patient. And if you know the territory, find a different route."
In Year 1 (destination: Arcola), about 35 tractors tagged along. Last year (Mattoon), there were 100. About 99 followed the rules.
"It's not rocket science: It's follow the leader," Fleming said. "Occasionally, someone decides to break off and go on his own route. Then they get upset because they get lost."
Hard to tell who has more fun: the drivers or the folks who line the route — approved by the Illinois Department of Transportation — to wave and cheer.
A 1982 Arthur High grad, Fleming not only coordinates the Cruise, he participates in it. His 1952 Case DC will be second in line next Saturday.
"A lot of us enjoy driving the old tractors. We like that connection to the past, that link to our grandparents," he said. "Every year, we make sure to recognize the family with the most generations present. Most years we have four generations."