Hay bale rolling event gained fans, will be back at future fairs

Photos by Tom Rivers: Connor Miller and Alwyn Cayea of Medina are in the last stretch of the hay bale rolling contest on Saturday night at the Orleans County 4-H Fair. The event filled the late night time slot when the grease pole climbing competition was held.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 August 2021 at 12:07 pm

KNOWLESVILLE – The hay bale rolling competition picked up momentum through the week at the Orleans County 4-H Fair, with more teams signing up and the crowds getting bigger after the debut on Wednesday.

The event was added after the fair was forced to discontinue the grease pole climbing contest, a popular event for nearly 50 years. The fair’s insurance company deemed climbing a utility pole, slathering in grease, too dangerous.

Each night before the hay bale rolling, a moment of silence was observed for the grease pole. Jeremy Neal, the event chairman, even had a gravestone marker made that he put at the base of the grease pole. “RIP Grease Pole,” the marker said. Someone added flowers to the display on Saturday night.

The team that called themselves the “Bad Moms” – Amber Conner and Tiff Burgio of Albion – pushes the hay bale past the grease pole, which was given a fitting tribute throughout the week. The Bad Moms completed the course in 2:53.59, but faced 30 seconds of violations for having the hay bale go off course three times. They were one of three all-woman teams to complete the challenge. Brie Trembley and Abby Allen of Albion were the first to do it on Friday. Their team was called “Hay-Girl-Hay.” They did it in 2:37.60 plus 60 seconds in violations.

Neal concocted the hay bale rolling event, and set up a course with ditches and poles. The hay bales weighed 700 pounds and they were rolled on the two straight-a-way lanes, and then twice had to be pushed end-over-end for shorter segments.

There were some gripes on Wednesday, especially on social media, with the debut of the hay bale rolling. Jeremy Neal was concerned it might be “flop” and people might not come back after the first night.

But crowds grew in size, and there were several teams each night, including eight on Friday. The top team each night advanced to the finals on Saturday, with the winner getting $250.

“I’m very happy,” Neal said after the event ended on Saturday night. “It turned out to be something that people loved. It’s no grease pole, but it’s definitely something to watch.”

Neal said he will change the course next year and may tinker with other elements in the challenge.

His wife Tina said the hay bale rolling had the added benefit of being clean fun.

“It’s far less messy,” she said. “There weren’t any ruined clothes.”

To see a video of Alden Cayea and Chris Hahn in the finals, click here. (They were disqualified after three of their friends jumped in and helped push the hay bale in the last stretch. Cayea and Hahn were wiped out after qualifying for the finals on Saturday, and then had to do the challenge again.)

Jeremy Moyer, right, and David Armer – “DP Dubs” – won the event during Saturday’s finals, finishing the challenge in 1 minute, 6 seconds.

Moyer, 34, of Lyndonville and Armer, 31, of Albion work together at the Brockport Department of Public Works. They said they wanted to support the 4-H Fair by competing in the new challenge.

“It’s not so easy, especially when you are flipping it end over end,” Moyer said.

Armer grew up farming and in 4-H. He liked that the challenge has a farm connection.

His advice for the event is “to go as fast as you can and avoid the sides (of the course).” Neal sent up the course and lined it with traffic cones.

Neal is shown in this photo in back left. He is watching to make sure the team stays in the lane. Kayla Sucy, back right, served as the announcer of the event.

Samantha Basinait and Allison Mathes – “Minimum Wagers” – did the challenge in 2:30:49 with no violations which is the fastest time for an all-female team.

The age minimum to compete was 16, instead of 18 for the grease pole. There also was only two people needed for a team, instead of the 6 to 10 for the grease pole. That resulted in many more teams for the hay bale rolling.

Kelsie Johnstone of Holley and Andrew Moore of Albion compete in the event in front of an enthusiastic crowd on Friday night.

Joe Cecchini, right, and Ollie Wilson of Medina had a fast time in 1 minute, 19 seconds, but faced another 30 seconds in penalties.

Caleb Cudzilo and Alexander Planer of Oswego – “The Rolly Men” – covered the course in 1:47.02, but were docked 40 seconds in violations.