Families bring tractor square dance alive at Farm Show
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Families bring tractor square dance alive at Farm Show

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HARRISBURG — Tractor square dancing at the 104th Pennsylvania Farm Show on Thursday was family friendly in every sense of the phrase.

Two and three generations of families from the Roof Garden Tractor Buddies of Somerset County performed in the Equine Arena. Generations of other families sat in the New Holland Arena stands watching.

Tractor square dancing involves eight drivers on antique tractors performing square dance maneuvers to music and a caller’s orders.

It’s more difficult than it looks.

On Thursday, the drivers ranged from ages 14 to 83. The tractors ranged from 58 to 78 years old. Yet drivers and tractors performed with a fresh enthusiasm as the crowd applauded.

Edith Rhoads welcomed the crowd and led the singing of the national anthem. She kicked off the dance by playing square dance music, then prepared to call out maneuvers.

Eight men (four wearing wigs, skirts, hats or aprons to portray women) drove into the arena on a variety of tractors: red Farmall, Massey-Harris and Minneapolis Moline, an orange Co-Op, and two green John Deeres.

Edith Rhoads smiled when looking at her family on tractors: father-in-law, Harry; husband, Tim; and son, Brandon, all of Berlin, Pennsylvania. Other Tractor Buddies families include Greg Miller of Stoystown and his grandson, Travis Zimmerman of Somerset; and Daryl Holsopple and grandson, Justin Carr, both of Holsopple.

The drivers began guiding the antique tractors into intricate maneuvers. They whirled, twirled, promenaded and bowed to their corners, all done smoothly with no accidents. Sometimes, they looked like a carousel, other times like a wheel in motion.

Despite the drivers having different driving styles, different wheel sizes and different gear ratios, each gave a polished performance. Some drove slowly and deliberately. Others seemed carefree, doing an antique tractor’s version of a wheelie. Soon, most were doing such square dance maneuvers as grand right, daisy chain, stars and corners.

The drivers, who are all square dancers on the floor as well as on tractors, said understanding square dancing helps to avoid accidents.

Team members said that they do about eight tractor square dance performances a year, with the Farm Show being the largest.

“I’m impressed at how much skill this requires to make these turns on antique tractors,” Carl Dickson of Middle Paxton Township said.

The Farm Show runs through 5 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free, but parking is $15.

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