Hay bale rolling contest proves a challenge
Event caps busy day at fair, but crowd misses grease pole
KNOWLESVILLE – It’s no grease pole, but a hay bale rolling competition proved a difficult challenge to cap a full day’s schedule at the Orleans County 4-H Fair.
The grease pole was a popular event at the fair from 1971 until 2019. There wasn’t a fair last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The insurance provider for the fair this year decided it wouldn’t continue covering the grease pole event, deeming it too dangerous to have people climb a utility pole slathered in grease.
Jeremy Neal, the event chairman, still wanted a somewhat silly event open to community members to cap off the schedule. He devised an oval-shaped course around the grease pole, making ditches, and putting down thick poles. Teams of two would have to push a 700-pound hay bale through the course, rolling it on the longer lanes and have to flip it end over end in two segments of the course. If teams pushed the hay bale outside the lane boundaries, they would be assessed a 10-second violation.
The crowd for the opening night of the hay bale rolling contest was much smaller than for the grease pole and they didn’t scream in passionate support for the teams. It was also harder to see the action for the crowd, because the competition was on the ground and not up high.
Neal deemed the contest a success. It still drew a lot of people and provided some one-of-a-kind entertainment.
“It’s not as good as the grease pole but we’ll deal with it,” Neal said.
He asked why he thought the grease pole was so popular: “Grease,” he responded.
Joe Ambs (right) and Zach Chapman, The Ride Guys, both work for the midway provider at the fair, Main Event Amusements. They completed the challenge in 2 minutes, 14.94 seconds, plus a 10-second violation.
Ambs was on a team that attempted to climb the grease pole. He admitted the grease pole can’t be replaced. But he said the hay bale rolling was a more demanding challenge physically.
“I’m a physical fitness trainer and this put me into the ground,” he said.
He said the task takes leg, core and arm strength – “all your body,” he said.
He appreciates that the Orleans County 4-H Fair has contests open to the community, including the midway workers.
“This is the best fun I’ve had in the past five months,” he said.
Before the competition, Arian Cayea and Ben Griffin of Medina did a demonstration, showing the crowd and other participants how the event would like, with the hay bale needing to go through a winding path, ditches and poles. The bale is roll on the two lanes, and needed to be flipped end over end in two spots.
Arian, 17, said the key is to keep the momentum going with the hay bale. He and Ben, 16, have been working at the fair this week, collecting the admission fees, which are $2 for kids and $3 for adults with no parking fee. A week-long pass is available for $5.