Fort Kent: Antique tractor club trek to benefit hospice

Posted Aug. 04, 2008, at 12 a.m.

FORT KENT, Maine&nbsp- Those who collect, restore and display antique tractors are a special breed. Next week a northern Maine club devoted to old rolling iron is taking to the roads to benefit local hospice care.

The northern chapter of the Maine Antique Tractor Club will hold a memorial tractor trek starting at 9 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 10, in Caribou with all proceeds going to Hospice of Aroostook.

“This is a very courteous and caring group,” said Robin Holmes of Visiting Nurses of Aroostook and a club member. “We’ ve had some members who used Hospice, and [the club] has taken Hospice under their wing.”

Last summer, Holmes said, the club raised funds during a tractor pull at the Washburn Summerfest to donate to Hospice.

“I got really excited about the idea of doing the trek,” said Holmes, herself a fan of vintage Farmall tractors.

As it turned out, however, there was a lot more to it than simply announcing the event and collecting pledges.

“We started planning last spring to determine what had to be done,” she said. “Anyone who wants to participate must register their tractors with the state and get antique plates.”

In addition, for insurance reasons, the event is open to club members only, though membership is open to anyone.

“This really is a great group of people,” Holmes said. “They are so good about being active and supportive of our projects.”

Hospice, Holmes explained, is something people never want to find themselves in the position of having to use, but when the need arises it is a godsend for many.

“The whole idea of hospice is to provide not only care for terminally ill patients, but for the family as well,” she said. “This is a very intimate time for a family and hospice is there for support.”

That support comes in the form of nursing staff available for consultation 24 hours a day, social workers, medication, home health care aides and volunteer caregivers to step in when the primary family caregiver needs a break.

“We can’ t come and do it all,” Holmes said. “But we can support the family of that patient who wants to be at home at the end of life.”

For Keith Boulier of Presque Isle, vice president of the northern Maine antique tractor club chapter, taking on projects to benefit Hospice was a perfect fit.

“Four people from the club have passed away from cancer and two of them had hospice care,” Boulier said. “A majority of our members were all for this, [and] it’ s a great way to give back to the community.”

Participants will begin lining up their Farmalls, John Deeres, Massey Harrises, Fords, Olivers and Alice Chamberses at 8:30 a.m. to register.

The lead tractor will carry a memory board with the names of deceased loved ones.

“Anyone may have a name of their loved one displayed on the memory board,” Holmes said. “The cost is a $25 pledge.”

Boulier and Holmes both admit their passion for old metal is a unique taste.

“I think a lot of it goes back to our childhoods,” Boulier said. “So many of us drove tractors, picked potatoes and used them around the farms.”

The Maine Antique Tractor Club was formed in Augusta in 1994 and the northern Maine chapter came together six years ago, Boulier said.

“The first year we had 20 members [and] we’ ve been growing since then,” he said. “I can’ t put my finger on it but as soon as you get us on our tractors we laugh, have a good time and lots of fun.”

The club has about 130 members.

Membership is $15 for a couple, and for an additional $10 children ages 12 to 17 are enrolled in a special safety course designed for those wanting to enter the club’ s tractor pull events.

“Our main concern is safety and we play it safe all the time,” Boulier said. “It’ s a good club and we have a good time.”

Much of that good time comes from the kidding and joshing among members.

“I’ m a Farmall woman,” Holmes said. “But if I have to get on and drive a John Deere to move it, you can bet there will be someone out there with a camera taking a picture of me.”

The trek will cover 37 miles with a stop in Washburn for coffee, followed by a stop at the Aroostook Centre Mall in Presque Isle where the local ATV club will hold a barbecue lunch.

“The public is welcome to come and see the tractors,” Holmes said. “They will be on display at each stop.”

For more information

or to donate to the Memorial Tractor Trek, contact Holmes through Visiting Nurses of Aroostook at 498-2578 or by e-mail at rholmes@emh.org. For information on the Maine Antique Tractor Club, go to www.maineantiquetractorclub.com.

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