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Jen’s Jots: Registration is open for the 16th annual event on Sept. 7.

Jennifer Kiel, Editor, Michigan Farmer

March 8, 2024

3 Min Read
A parade of tractors crossing a bridge over water
ACROSS MIGHTY MAC: In the past 15 years, more than 20,000 antique tractors have crossed the Mighty Mac, some several times. This year’s event is Sept. 7. Photos by Jennifer Kiel

At a Glance

  • The event returns after the 2023 crossing was canceled because of bridge construction.
  • Registration is capped at 1,500 tractors or Aug. 15, whichever comes first.
  • The view from atop this 5-mile suspension bridge is magnificent.

Michigan’s 5-mile-long Mackinac Bridge is majestic. The view from this 5-mile suspension bridge that divides Lakes Michigan and Huron is magnificent. Driving across it is a treat. Now imagine crossing it on your antique tractor. Yup, it’s a thing.

The Mackinac Bridge is hailed as one of the most outstanding engineering achievements of the century. It connects the Upper Peninsula to its lower sister, and the state loves to celebrate it by hosting numerous groups to cross it at designated events.

You can run it on Memorial Day. You have “Jeep the Mac” in April. Then there’s “Motorcycles on the Mac” in August, the bridge walk on Labor Day and the “Semis Parade of Lights” at night in mid-September.

But the annual Mackinac Bridge Antique Tractor Crossing gives a nod to the state’s rich agricultural heritage and draws a massive number of machines, people and tractor tales the first Saturday after Labor Day.

It has become an annual destination for many, and for some, it’s quite the journey. People come from all over … and not just from Michigan or even neighboring states. They come from Canada, Alaska, Texas, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and more. In 2022, tractor drivers came from 24 states and 48 tractor clubs. One couple took it off their bucket list and traveled more than 1,200 miles from Cornville, Maine.

In the past 15 crossings, more than 20,000 antique tractors have crossed the Mighty Mac, some several times. I’ve covered all but two of the crossings — I didn’t know about it the first year, and one year I was sick. I can tell you the anticipation and excitement never seem to dwindle. Sure, the event is the reason, but participants declare time and time again — it’s the people, the camaraderie and the stories that make it special.

Days before the crossing, antique tractors start funneling in on semis, on trailers and some simply drive into the staging area just outside of Mackinaw City. (Yes, it is spelled differently than the bridge.)

Spectators watch as a farmer drives a tractor with a water bottle on the front

With engines chugging, flags waving, horns tooting and riders and drivers intently waving to the scores of spectators, the tractors parade across into the Upper Peninsula town of St. Ignace. There, tractors are parked for a weekend of showing and fun.

In 2020, the event was canceled because of COVID-19, and last year, it did not run because of construction on the bridge taking up one of the two northbound lanes during the scheduled crossing. But this year, the 16th annual event is back and will kick off about 9 a.m. Sept. 7.

Registration opened March 1 and is capped at 1,500 tractors or Aug. 15, whichever comes first. The record for a single year is 1,466 tractors.

Bob Baumgras, founder of the event and owner of Owosso Tractor Repair and Parts in Owosso, Mich., came up with the idea several years ago and pulled off the first crossing in 2008 with 614 tractors. Shortly after, drivers could be joined by riders in an approved buddy seat.

New participant information, rules, frequently asked questions, registration forms and a ton of other information is available at mackinacbridgecrossing.com. There is also a Facebook page. Additional questions may be directed to Rebecca Canze, event organizer, at 989-721-6882.

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About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer

While Jennifer is not a farmer and did not grow up on a farm, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone with more appreciation for the people who grow our food and fiber, live the lifestyles and practice the morals that bind many farm families," she says.

Before taking over as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan and as director of communications with Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her impressive resume.

Jennifer lives in St. Johns with her two daughters, Elizabeth, 19, and Emily 16.

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