Friday, June 27, 2008

...All You Need Is John Deere Action

Farmers Enjoy Smashing Success With New Style of Demolition Derby (WSJ-sub req):

MILROY, Minn. -- Larry Lanoue climbed into his two-story-high, 13.5-ton combine, revved up the engine and rammed the harvesting machine straight into another one. Then he backed up, swung to his right and lunged forward, tearing into the rear axle of a third.

The crowd of 1,200 at this tiny town's Race and Crash Day went wild.

Forget monster trucks and funny cars. Across the Farm Belt, the new star of the demolition derby is the combine, a hulking harvester with a top speed of about 15 miles an hour and a sticker price that can top $300,000. At county fairs and local fund-raisers, farmers slam them into each other until only one remains mobile.

Now that's a must-see event. You might ask what would possess someone to want to participate in such a spectacle:

Milroy, population 271, had its first derby in 2004. The town, surrounded by corn and soybean fields in southwestern Minnesota, is home to a bar named Oasis, a Catholic church and no stoplights. Tim Zwach, a volunteer firefighter, organized the contest to raise money for the town fire department after hearing about a combine derby in another Minnesota town.

The first Milroy derby attracted 13 combines, drew about 2,200 spectators and hauled in about $18,000, he says.

"Every farmer in the world at one point or another would like to drive their combine into a brick wall," said Mr. Zwach, a jovial 38-year-old who farms 2,600 corn and soybean acres and pilots a fire-department-themed combine in the derbies.

You gotta love that. And this. What a country.