What do we do on a Saturday afternoon in the Swedish countryside? Watch a Tractor Race of course!
Off across the country we went under a bright and beautiful Autumn sky that emphasised the vibrant colours of the trees slowly losing their leaves… Seriously: it’s pretty here! In a village called Vänga Kyrka the annual Tractor Race was held in which there were 14 participants and maybe 100 spectators.
When we arrived we paid a small entrance fee (something like £2) and then lined up around a bordered off area that had some wooden poles and red and green barrels in lines within. This was clearly the location for the race and the audience found their spaces in anticipation of the entertainment. In the background they played a mixture of old American country music, Bob Dylan and even some more unusual dub-rock music.
Then the music stopped and the orator called out ‘Välkommen!’ and introduced the event. The Tractor Race began with all of the drivers parading around the space in their tractors so that we could see them all and cheer or smile or do whatever we felt like doing to encourage them (which wasn’t much). Some of the drivers got a bit cocky and sped up behind the others, or stood up waving at the crowds, while black fumes flowed out of their exhausts into the afternoon sky.
After that the races began, which involved the tractors competing 2 at a time in a best out of 3 scenario. They had to weave from one end to the other in and out of their respective barrels and then do some fancy turning within wooden poles at the far end. After that they return via the barrels again to the finish line. Rinse and repeat 2 more times.
The event went on for about 2 and a half hours in total, with a long-ish break before the ‘Kvartfinals’ began. I can’t say that it was the most enthralling competition as it was mostly the same thing over and over again, but it was quite enjoyable for a while. The most exciting thing that happened was one driver who kept driving into the wooden poles that he was supposed to drive between; it was surprisingly amusing after the monotony that preceded it!
What I did like was the small-community feeling, with all the locals out in a field together in their coats trying to keep warm from the cold, in order to share in the festivities. It reminded me of Village Fairs and Bonfire Night when I was a child.