Hard working machines
Mass threshing is shown in full swing in the 70-acre field behind the St. Albert Cheese Factory. Van Dusen photo

Supporting a great cause
François Latour turns over a $100,000 cheque for breast cancer research to Marie-Claire Ivanski.
Van Dusen photo

ST. ALBERT – François Latour and his almost bottomless pool of volunteers did it and they did it decisively last Sunday in a 70-acre field behind the regionally famous cheese factory.

They reclaimed the Guinness Book of World Records title for most threshing machines operating at the same time in one location; 243 threshers were counted, easily wiping out the score of 139 registered by a Manitoba group in 2016.

In the process, the event raised $100,000 for breast cancer research in honour of Latour’s late wife Suzanne who succumbed to the disease almost at the same moment he claimed his first threshing title in 2015 with 111 operating units.

The cheering from thousands of participants was thunderous when New York City-based Guinness Book adjudicator Michael Empric announced the final results. Showing a flair for the dramatic, Empric kept the crowd hopping as he recited all of St. Albert’s geographical coordinates before delivering the news.

Bird’s eye view
Guinness Book adjudicator Michael Empric gets the bird’s eye view of threshing field. To count toward the record, machines needed to operate for five consecutive minutes.
Van Dusen photo

Later he said he enjoyed his time in St. Albert except for the part where he was lifted high in a cherry picker to survey the competition field which was also monitored by drones and ground judges.

Standing on the podium close to Empric, Latour let out an anticlimactic cheer; the feeling was he already knew from his own count that the win was in the bag. His team was also counting on it, preparing in advance a new vest declaring him to be the 2019 record holder.

Latour was almost as happy with the full count of threshers on the field provided by Empric – 250 – as he was with the winning 243. He had promised 250 of the ungainly machines would make it to St. Albert and that’s exactly what happened; seven were disqualified for a late start or failing to operate for five consecutive minutes as the rules require.

Latour wanted a big win to keep the competition at bay for as long as possible. He claimed victory in 2015 on the same site but the Manitoba group easily upset him the following year. Since then, he’s been scouring the countryside in Ontario and Quebec rounding up retired threshers which could be pressed into service with minor repairs and new belts. The magic number began at 200 and slowly grew to 250.

What a difference four years made in the St. Albert setup. In 2015, it was just the threshers, their power sources and a few small booths. This time out, in addition to the main attraction, there were two big-top tents on site for entertainment, a dinner Saturday night, beer sales, and an antique farm machinery display, along with full sit-down restaurant, exhibitor booths, a row of portable toilets and several sets of bleachers.

That many threshers powered by tractors of every shape and size churning grain at the same time created quite a dust storm but spectators didn’t seem to mind as they came in as close as possible for photos. Sensing they were part of regional agricultural history, many stared in awe at the spectacle. “I still have dust up my nose,” event co-chair Marie-Claire Ivanski said the next morning.

Ivanski coordinated the second Guinness attempt held Sunday, to create the longest human pink ribbon in existence. Despite extensive preparation, including making pink hats and tops available for ribbon participants as required by the rules of the game, the count fell short at 3,415 human ribbon links when more than 8,265 were needed to upset the existing record holder.

Sensing in advance the numbers just weren’t there, Ivanski adopted an you-win-some-lose-some attitude, pointing out the $100,000 cheque for breast cancer research was already a big enough prize. She couldn’t say if another attempt will be made to topple the pink ribbon record.

Latour thanked all of those who stood by him during his two threshing record runs, including family members, friends, general volunteers, and the agricultural community right across the region.