One-of-kind tractor run takes place in the Hills

By Jeff Smith

A long haul — Roy Denney of Lebanon, Tenn., on his Farmall tractor on Aug. 23. He was one of the people who made the longest drive for the Black Hills Tractor Run. It is worth it, participants say, to see all the scenery at a slow pace.

A three day tractor cruise is not a bad way to spend time in the Black Hills. Tractor enthusiasts from all over the United States spent time in Custer, Hill City and enjoyed a ride to Mt. Rushmore.

The event is called the Black Hills Tractor Run. It takes place every two years. The routes might be different each time they come but they always make sure to go to Mt. Rushmore on Thursday.

Some noted the size of the creeks since they were here last. Others talked about their trip, the land out here and where other participants in the run are from.

Twelve states were represented at this year’s event. Kentucky and Tennessee were the farthest locations from which people traveled for the event. A couple of people thought that the majority of the tractor riders came from Iowa.

Last Thursday they came to Memorial Park in Hill City to eat lunch. There were 55 tractors there. Some might have left for home by that time to return home for work in an attempt to avoid bad weather.

The total number that came this year was 77. In 2016 there were 91 people that came for the Black Hills Tractor Run.

“A good crowd came,” said organizer Carol Parrish.

She said that the planning for 2020 is already in the works.

The event started in 2003. Parrish said they started the event that year but it didn’t really kick into gear completely until 2006. There is a lot more planning that goes into the event than people might think. It takes time to get it started and get all the permits needed in place.

The first year they had 13 riders come to the Black Hills. In 2006 there were 24.

The lunch on Aug. 23 consisted of a potato bar and was provided by the Custer County 4-H Shooting Sports program. The club raises funds through the event. Seventy-five percent of the students involved in the program helped out with the meals for the tractor riders.

Last time the tractor run came to the area the program was able to incorporate BB guns into the club due to the funds raised.

The goal in the near future is to also provide shotgun training. There are already certified instructors for archery and BB gun shooting.

Most of the tractors at the event were stock tractors. Some of them might have had an extra seat. A lot of them were customized with flags and various memorabilia. There were all sizes of tractors. Most were antique tractors although there were some newer models seen.

Tom Hollingshead of Ogden, Iowa said the first day was cold, wet and dusty but other than that it was perfect.

Hollingshead stated that they are crazy enough to haul their tractors more than 600 miles for the event. The scenery is what sets this event apart from other tractor runs.

Most of the tractors at the event were gas-powered. About one-third of the tractors had diesel engines. The tractors needed to have a “Slow Moving Vehicle” sign and a mirror in order to participate.Many of the tractors were built between the 1950’s and 1970’s.  Fresh paint and some different mechanical work done on them made them look like they were in mint condition.

While he was enjoying his time, Hollingshead was also trying to promote the business he works for selling trailers.

But it’s really all about having a good time.

“It’s a really nice way to see the sites. You really can’t see them better than going 12 mph on a tractor,” Hollingshead said.

Julian Nichols of Albany, Mo. traveled more than 700 miles to come to the event. He belongs to the Heart of America Tractor Club and goes on around eight different tractor treks a year.

There are always a lot of people to talk to and every year there are new people to meet.

It’s also a sight to see for the spectators. The reds and oranges of the tractors are a nice contrast when they are up against the green of the pine trees.

Hollingshead said most people enjoy seeing the tractors although many are in a hurry.

One year the group went up Spearfish Canyon but Parrish said the security is better in Custer and Pennington County.  Since the Northern Hills might still be reeling from the Sturgis Rally, Parrish said that it’s hard to get the police there involved and it gets to be too crowded.

Parrish said the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and Custer County Sheriff’s Office did more than they could ever imagine.