A small crowd watched from scuffed wooden benches as FFA and 4-H students showed off their equipment safety skills at the Bryan County Free Fair Tractor Driving Contest.
Jim Esbenshade, agribusinessman and 1961 National Tractor Driving contest winner, helped direct, along with fellow agribusinessman Mike DeLong, this year’s Bryan County Tractor Driving Contest.
“The purpose of this is tractor safety more than anything,” Esbenshade said. “[It helps] the FFA and 4-H students learn how to operate equipment properly.”
Esbenshade said the two primary scoring criteria for the contest were common sense skills in driving and the execution of safety precautions.
“We want the kids to realize a machine only does what you make it do,” Esbenshade said.
Gerald Parks, a Calera agriculture teacher who brought four students to the event, said the tractor driving contest is a good teaching tool for children in Bryan county.
“Most kids, even kids who live in town, have to pull trailers,” Parks said. “This teaches them the fundamentals of using that equipment safely.”
Kyle Williams, a senior at Calera High School and both this year’s and last year’s county tractor driving winner, said he has seen a vast improvement in his own safety skills in regards to tractor driving as a result of participating in this event.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Williams said. In addition to honing his safety skills, Williams’ said his personal drive motivated him to participate in the event again this year. “I just like competing.”
A total of 19 contestants throughout the area participated, according to an email from OSU Extension Ag Agent Clay Jones.
The top five placings are as follows: first place, Kyle Williams of Calera; second place, Mark Mefford of Calera; third place, Eli Young of Calera; fourth place, Steven Reese of Colbert; and, 5th place, Cody Hatcher of Calera. The top four placings qualified for the state contest at the Tulsa State Fair on Sept. 27, according to the e-mail.