3 decades, 3 generations of Cooper & Sons Pedal Pulling continues. 

August 3, 2021

Pedal pull at the 1987 Scottville Harvest Festival at the corner of State and Main streets.

Lane Cooper, in hat, during the 1984 Fathers Day Fly-In at Mason County Airport.

3 decades, 3 generations of Cooper & Sons Pedal Pulling continues. 

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

SUMMIT TOWNSHIP — For 35 years, Cooper & Sons Pedal Pulling has provided some friendly competition for kids dreaming of some day driving the big tractor. The pandemic meant a year off in 2020 but future farmers (or farming fans) have two opportunities in the next two weeks to make up for the year off. 

The first opportunity will be Saturday, Aug. 7 during Kids’ Day at the Western Michigan Old Engine Club’s 47th Tractor and Engine Show at Scottville Riverside Park. The event will start about 1:30 p.m. 

Harvest Festival float, 1984.

The next opportunity will be on Wednesday, Aug. 11 during Kids’ Day at the 83rd Western Michigan Fair at the Mason County Fairgrounds in Pere Marquette Township, beginning at 6 p.m. 

Pedal vehicle history goes back to the 1890s, shortly after the introduction of the automobile. It’s likely the pedal tractor was developed in the 1940s when toy maker Frederick Ertl formed the Ertl Toy Company, which has been the largest manufacturer of toy tractors, specializing in John Deere tractors. 

Tractor pulling has been a long time agricultural tradition as well. Those two were combined locally in 1984 when twin brothers Duane and Lane Cooper introduced the event at the Father’s Day Fly-in held by the Mason County Pilots Association at the Mason County Airport. The event was a hit and in September of that year, the Cooper brothers introduced pedal pulling to the Scottville Harvest Festival. Eventually, the Coopers brought pedal pulling to the fair and the old engine show as well. 

Scottville Harvest Festival 1986. Lane, in green, and Duane. Duane’s son, Paul, in blue.

Today, Cooper & Sons Pedal Pulling is in its third generation. Duane passed away in 2020 but the legacy continues. All five sons of Duane and Leslie Cooper continue to be part of the team: Joe, Mike, Paul, Mark and Andy, along with their children. 

“It’s always just been something we have done since we were all kids,” Joe, the oldest, said. “It’s fun to see the kids go through this over the years. Many of the kids now have their own kids who are pulling.”

Last Saturday, Joe and his brother, Mike, were preparing the tractors for the upcoming competitions while their mother, Leslie, was preparing the prizes.

“We do have winners, but everyone does get a prize,” Leslie said. Participation in the pull is free at the old engine show and the fair but each event does charge a gate admission. 

Joe said the pedal pulling is open to all kids ages 4 to 10. They will often let a 3-year-old compete or some slightly older kids. 

Cody Cooper on the tractor during the 2002 Harvest Festival. His grandpa, Duane, on the microphone.

“The issue with the older kids is that we can only put some much weight on the sled. So, it gets a little too easy for them,” Mike said. 

Kids also have their choice of tractors, included “modified” tractors that Lane built over 35 years ago. 

“It’s a great family tradition that my dad and uncle started and we are proud to keep it going,” Joe said. 

The Western Michigan Old Engine Club’s Tractor and Engine Show begins Thursday, Aug. 5 and continues through Sunday, Aug. 8. The Western Michigan Fair begins Tuesday, Aug. 10 and continues through Saturday, Aug. 14.

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