The horse pull returned to the Monroe County Fair this year thanks to a strong family connection and support from friends.

The Leo Bischoff Memorial Horse Pull was held on the Monroe County Fairgrounds Wednesday morning at the Glenn F. Stock Arena.

The free horse pull made a comeback this year after its one-year absence caused by a lack of funds. Larry Hammons successfully gained sponsors and donations for the event. In doing so, he raised a total of $5000.

Ottawa Lake Co-Op Elevator donated $3,000 as a sponsor. They were motivated to support this event because manager Dan Keller and secretary Suzanne Keller wanted to honor Mr. Bischoff. Mrs. Keller is his sister.

Mr. Bischoff, an Ottawa Lake native, was a longtime pulling enthusiast. He died of cancer on June 19, 2009, at the age of 59.

His family thought the horse pull would be an appropriate way to honor him, because Monroe was considered his hometown-pulling site.

Ida Farmers Cooperative also donated $500, and the fair board provided $1,000.

Mr. Bischoff’s mother, Joseanna Bischoff, 93, said she couldn’t control her emotions at the horse pull.

“I keep thinking how he would’ve enjoyed this,” she said. “It was very nice that they did this.”

As she remembered her son with tears in her eyes, Mrs. Bischoff said she was glad to be able to come out to an event like this.

“I’m very impressed. It was very thoughtful,” she said.

Throughout the event, announcer Carlene Davis, from Lansing, shared memories and thoughts about Mr. Bischoff. Mrs. Davis is the secretary/treasurer of the Michigan Dynamometer Horse Pulling Association.

“We are so grateful to the sponsors and to the family for making these horse pulls possible,” she said.

She explained that Mr. Bischoff was introduced to horse pulling by his brother Jim. He then began pulling ponies and did that for more than 40 years.

His character was honored in several ways as Mrs. Davis reminded the crowd where support for the horse pull came from.

“For him, it was about people — seeing old friends, making new ones, and spending time with family,” Mrs. Davis said.

The many family members and friends present at the event showed evidence of this. Mr. Bischoff’s two sons, Dacon, 27, and Dalton, 25, try to keep the horse-pulling hobby alive in their family.

“I enjoy it. My mom really enjoys it, too,” Dalton said.

Dalton said he was glad to be at the Monroe County Fair honoring his father.

“It’s a great thing. It’s something nice for us and all of our family,” he said. “It’s a good way to remember him.”

Because they live about three hours away in White Pigeon, Dalton and his mother and brother don’t see their family members from Monroe often. The Monroe County Fair has always been a meeting place for Mr. Bischoff and his family. Because there was no horse pull last year, Mr. Bischoff’s family did not come to Monroe.

“It was disappointing, actually,” Dalton said.

He said he missed seeing all of his family members and coming to the horse pull his dad had participated in.

“We’ve got a wonderful family, probably one of the better ones anybody could have,” he said.

There were almost 50 people there to represent Mr. Bischoff, from family members, to neighbors, to friends. All of his siblings, three sisters and a brother, were there along with his mother, mother-in-law, and wife.

Mr. Bischoff’s wife, JoDea, couldn’t help but cry as memories of her husband were shared at the event.

“He would be truly honored,” she said.

She said she always enjoys coming to the Monroe County Fair and spending time with her family members.

“Leo’s family has really been supportive towards us,” she said. “This shows us what a great family he’s come from.”

The Bishoffs met through their hobby of pony pulling.

“I go when I can. I grew up pulling ponies,” Mrs. Bishoff said. “I love it. I love the horses.”

Larry Hammons grew up in the same neighborhood as Mr. Bischoff.

“Leo pulled ponies here for many many years,” he said.

Mr. Hammons said he was glad to help with this event and to honor Mr. Bischoff.

“At some point, hopefully, the funding will be back, but that’s not very likely,” he said. “I was lucky I found the people I did. I was lucky the board could help us out too.”

The Ottawa Lake Co-Op Elevator said they would offer their support next year for the event, Mr. Hammons said.

“They felt it was a very good investment,” he said. “There was a family connection there, too.”

Mr. Bischoff’s father, Lyle, 97, did not make it to the event because of his health. He died later on Wednesday.

Anyone interested in sponsoring the horse pull, or donating money, can contact the fair board office and specify draft horse pull sponsorship or donation.