FFAers set to go TRAWLing
By KAREN SCHWALLER
MILFORD – Rich Martin’s ag students at Okoboji High School restored an old tractor one year. Turns out they were so proud of it, they wanted to find a way to show it off to their community.
That was in 2006 and it was the beginning of an annual tractor ride that has done nothing but grow.
The Tractor Ride Around West Lake will happen on Sunday, beginning at 8 a.m., in Milford. The cost is $25, which includes registration, a limited-edition commemorative cap and a noon meal when the ride ends.
TRAWL is a parade of antique tractors with the route being a short one, winding around West Lake Okoboji in a morning’s time. It has become an annual event and involves the help of the Okoboji FFA students. It’s used as a fundraiser for the chapter.
“It’s a unique tractor ride,” Martin said, who is beginning his 17th year as advisor for the OHS chapter. “I told the kids that first year that if it was going to work, it had to be different. I’ve really had enough of driving tractors and looking at corn fields, and so we decided to run the route around West Lake.”
Martin said he wasn’t sure how the ride would be perceived that first year. He contacted a group of local tractor enthusiasts to get their opinions, and they encouraged him not to do it. But Martin still felt there was merit in what he and his students wanted to do, so they went with it.
“We were hoping to get around 30 riders that first year, and we got over 50,” he said.
Today the ride usually numbers around 150 riders, coming from areas such as Pipestone, Minn., Storm Lake, Fort Dodge and points in between.
“We go at a slower pace, seeing the landscaping, homes and scenery surrounding the Iowa Great Lakes,” Martin said, adding that a Sunday morning ride lends itself to a more leisurely pace. “We’re always in such a hurry, but a tractor can only go so fast, and you can really see a lot out there.”
The initial jitters of how motorists would respond to tractors driving slowly on U.S. Highway 71 through the heart of the Iowa Great Lakes, have disappeared, Martin said. Those days have passed.
“We go through the busiest intersection there is each time, and people will be waving at us and giving us a thumbs up, and even waiting through stop lights to let all of the tractors go through,” he said. “Some people are on lawn chairs watching us.
“It’s a very unique ride because we are bringing a little bit of the country into town, to those who live around West Okoboji Lake.
“They seem to enjoy watching all the tractors go by.”
One unique tractor that typically participates is the twin tractor of Larry Leckband, of Ocheyedan, which he built over the course of a dozen years.
Martin and his FFA students deemed Sunday morning is usually the least busy time for summer traffic in the Lakes area.
TRAWL has become a regular event during the Milford community’s annual celebration, “Pioneer Days.”
Martin said pulling this off takes the help of about a dozen of his FFA students on the day of the ride, with registration, handing out door prizes and caps to all riders, handing out refreshments at the break point, and grilling the burgers and preparing the meal for the riders when they return to Milford, and cleaning up afterwards.
Dakota Kraninger, 17, will be president of the Okoboji Chapter of the FFA this coming school year.
He has never driven a tractor in the TRAWL or any other tractor ride before, but plans to do that this year, along with helping out with the details as the chapter president. He’ll be driving his own machine – a John Deere 3020.
“I like tractors and this ride is big,” he said. “It’s fun to see all the different tractors.”
Martin said Kraninger will be toward the front of the ride, so he can be among the first to return to Milford and help with the meal that the FFA students will be preparing for all of the riders.
For more information on the TRAWL, contact Martin at (712) 338-4335.
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