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Tractor Ride Honors the Door County Polka King

Photo by Suzi Hass.

Twenty tractors drove through Northern Door June 11 to honor local legend Freddie Kodanko.

“He was a great guy,” said Chad Kodanko, Freddie’s second cousin. “He was a part of Door County folklore, part of the culture. He was definitely an eccentric, one-of-a-kind individual.”

Kodanko was the self-crowned Door County Polka King, and had a purple cape and hat to prove it. He’d use his tractor to power speakers to play polka music at Door County League baseball games, and made a point to drive his tractor in every parade, or sit behind another tractor, play music and play percussion on the sturdy wooden crates he was known for building.

In remembrance of this eccentric friend is an eccentric event, the annual Freddie K BS Tractor Ride, organized by Fuzzy Sunstrom since 2003.

“Freddie Kodanko was a gentleman who for as long as I can remember never had a driver’s license, and drove his tractor to the bar,” Sunstrom said.

Sunstrom bought Freddie’s tractor, a Massey Ferguson, when he died and thought the tradition of barhopping on the tractor should continue. This year, the crew of 20 tractors, including two trailers pulling extra riders along, stopped at the AC Tap, Beantown Campground, the Coyote Roadhouse, the Peninsula Pub and the Peninsular Gun Club.

The “BS” in the name of this year’s ride was an addition, to honor Sunstrom’s uncle Butch Seiler, who had been a part of every Freddie K ride until he passed away last year. Seiler was a bartender at the AC Tap, and had been friends with Kodanko, who frequented the bar.