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Rushmore's Skidloader Rodeo: Fun competition

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Anthony Adolph. Fargo, N.D., guides his father Kevin, Rushmore, through the obstacle course during the Skid Loader Rodeo as part of Rushmore's Pride and Heritage Days Saturday afternoon.

RUSHMORE -- Communities can come up with some pretty creative ways to draw a crowd to their summertime festival, and that was the case in Rushmore Saturday, as onlookers filled the bleachers and sprawled out chairs in the shade to watch the first Pride and Heritage Days Skidloader Rodeo.

Nineteen 2-person teams signed on for the competition that required a combination of good communication skills, patience and, of course, the ability to drive a skidloader through an obstacle course while blindfolded.

With the track set up on one of the town's gravel streets, and extending nearly the length of a city block, the drivers had to maneuver around towering rolls of old wooden snow fence, through a narrow archway that spilled water from ice cream buckets and around a snow fence roll before heading back through the course.

It may sound easy, but it was anything but for the drivers and those they partnered with to give directions. The main cause for confusion was that the person giving directions faced the driver, and thereby went backward through the course. The directors were seatbelted onto a padded chair, which was bolted to a pallet and attached to the fork on the front of the skidloader.

"Right, left, your other left, straight," shouted the direction givers as people in the crowds occasionally offered some directional assistance as well.

"You know what you want to say, but it doesn't come out how you want to say it," said Tammy Wojahn, who directed her husband Jason through the course.

"I did cheat too," added Tammy, holding up the backs of her hands to show a giant L and R written there with marker -- just so she could direct her husband correctly.

The Wojahns, of Jordan, were the first team through the obstacle course, finishing in a time of 5:34, which was bested by the very next team through the course, the father and son duo of Kevin and Anthony Adolph.

"It was way harder than I thought it would be, but it was fun," said Kevin, of Rushmore. "You just don't have a concept of distance when you're driving blindfolded."

As to how the roles of driver and director were decided, Kevin said that was much easier -- he's driven every kind of skidloader there is, and his son had no experience driving the bouncing work machine.

"He's good at giving directions," Kevin added.

It was the husband and wife team of Bruce and Mary Brunk who held the contest lead the longest of the first half of competitors. Finishing in a time of 4:09, it was Mary who had the honor of driving while her husband offered directions.

"It's the only time I've ever been able to tell her where to go, and it worked well," said Bruce with a grin.

"I've driven a skidloader before and he wasn't telling me where to go," retorted a teasing Mary. In fact, she'd driven a skidloader down the road that morning, and she managed to do just fine in a straight line, she said.

Teams seemed to agree that one of the hardest portions of the obstacle course was getting through the narrow passage where eight ice cream buckets dumped water on driver and director.

Tammy Wojahn said the fun competition really worked on communication skills. After she thought more about the biggest challenge to the contest, she said, "My husband would probably say me!"

In the end, it was Jory Haken and Hannah Solene who captured first place with a time of 3:25 on the Caterpillar skidloader. Second went to Randy Lenz and Wayne Bents, who finished at 3:58 on the Bobcat brand; and third place was garnered by Brian and Alex Roseberg, driving a Gehl model through the course in 4:02.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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