Hay bale rolling contest proves a challenge

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 July 2021 at 10:37 am

Event caps busy day at fair, but crowd misses grease pole

Photos by Tom Rivers: Nadine Valentine of Albion, left, and Alwyn Cayea of Medina made up the team “Respect.” They were the first team to complete the hay bale rolling challenge and did it in 4 minutes, 21.79 seconds. Jeremy Neal, event chairman, is at right.

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.

A gravestone was set at the base of the grease pole. Jeremy Neal had the marker made to pay tribute to the event’s popularity and also to show that it is over and the fair will be starting a new tradition with the hay bale rolling.

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.

Jeremy Neal, event chairman, and announcer Riley Seielstad observe a moment of silence for the grease pole, which was a big attraction to cap off each night at the fair until the insurance company deemed it too dangerous.

Aeddon Cayea, right, and Conner Miller of Medina got the 700-pound hay bale through the course in 2 minutes, 1.14 seconds, plus a 20-second violation. Here they are near the finish, with the last stretch requiring the bale to be pushed end over end, instead of rolling it. They were one of five teams in the competition on Wednesday night. It continues today and Friday night, with the winners from each day making it to the finals on Saturday night.

Alden Cayea and Christian Hahn of Medina formed the Rollie Boyz and pushed the hay bale through the course in 1:24.81, plus a 10-second violation.

Jeremy Moyer and David Armer of Albion, members of DP Dubs, won the opening night of the challenge, getting the hay bale through the course in a time of 1 minute, 20.48 seconds with no violations. They advance to the finals on Saturday night.

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.