They’re all pulling together
Dan Jerzak and his family are big fans of tractor pulling — they’ve been taking part in it for more than 20 years
For Dan Jerzak and his family, summer weekends are tractor time.
But that doesn’t mean working in the fields. It means towing heavy weights in front of a cheering crowd, or giving kids a chance to try tiny pedal-powered versions of the big tractors.
Members of the Jerzak and Jordahl families have been involved with tractor pulling, both the full-size version and kids’ pedal pulls, for more than 20 years. So far, three generations of the family have gotten the bug.
It started out as “just something to do,” Dan Jerzak said. Once he got hooked, he said, “From then on, it just kinda mushroomed.”
Jerzak got into tractor pulling when his children were young. Jerzak’s daughter Jessica Jordahl said she was 11 when it all started.
“We started tractor pulling out at what used to be called the Marble Store,” located along Highway 75 between Canby and Ivanhoe, Jordahl said. In the past, Jordahl and Jerzak said, many tractor pulls didn’t use weight transfer sleds to add resistance for the tractors. Instead, volunteers at points along the track would step onto the sled to add weight. It wasn’t always the best setup — sometimes people would get tired of volunteering through a whole event.
Dan Jerzak, together with Don Olsen and Richard Hauschild, built a weight transfer sled they called the Two Popper Stopper and started using it for tractor pulls, Jerzak and Jordahl said. While the family doesn’t help put on as many tractor pulls as they did 29 years ago, Jordahl said, “We attend a lot of pulls,” and compete at them. As far as holding tractor pulls, “Polish Days (in Ivanhoe) is our big day,” she said.
Another place where many people in the area may have seen Dan Jerzak and his family is at town festivals, running pedal tractor pulls for kids. Jordahl said she was 13 when Dan built a scaled-down weight sled, the Little Two Popper Stopper, and found pedal tractors to use with it.
Pedal pulling, Jerzak said, was something “I had seen at Farmfest, back when they were in Lake Crystal.” He bought a pedal tractor, “and figured it out from there.”
“I just put it together and tried it,” using the full-size weight transfer sled as a guide, Jerzak said. “A full pull was 54 feet, and that was good enough for me.”
Between full-size pulls and pedal pulls, Jordahl said the whole family from Dan Jerzak and his late wife Lucy, down to Jordahl and her brothers Corey, Curt and Doug Jerzak, got involved in the activity.
“We went everywhere with Mom and Dad,” Jordahl said. “We just grew up doing it.” Now, she’s stepped up in helping to run pedal pulls.
Enthusiasm for tractor pulling has started to pass to younger generations of the family, too.
“Now it’s a lot of fun watching our kids,” Jordahl said.
Jordahl estimated that their family does around 10 pedal pulls a summer. The Jerzaks’ pedal pulls aren’t officially state-sanctioned pulls. But the competition isn’t the main point, they said.
“That’s always been our thing, is we’re doing it for fun,” Jordahl said.
“We like to stay local,” Jordahl said of the pedal pulls the family puts on. They travel to area town festivals, and even some county fairs. “We just want kids to come out and try it.”
One of the fun things about pedal pulls, Jerzak said, was seeing the kids who take part in the competition.
“You get new kids every year,” he said, and then get to see them come back the next summer for another try.
“You see kids running around hanging on to their trophy or their medal” after a pedal pull, Jerzak said. It’s satisfying to see how excited they are, he said. Sometimes, kids that have grown up come up to him and share memories of being in pedal pulls, Jerzak said.
Having different groups of kids at each pedal pull also adds a little bit of unpredictability. When setting up pedal pulls, Jordahl said, “The biggest challenge is trying to figure out how much weight to put in the box . . . Some pulls, you have very strong kids.”
The best part of getting involved with tractor and pedal pulls, Jerzak said, was the friendships he’s made along the way.
“You can’t put a value on it,” he said. “There are great friendships, and great people through all the towns we go to.”