Rollin,’ rollin,’ rollin’
LE MARS – More than 530 tractors and 600 participants banded together Monday for the first of three days of the WHO Great Iowa Tractor Ride. Though plagued by rain and lightning Monday morning, which caused the ride to be stalled for a short time after it was started, it didn’t dampen the spirits of those involved.
“This year’s been cold and wet so far, but it’s been a damn lot of fun,” said Larry Hunt, of Hornick. “We’ve driven over half of it in the rain (Monday), but it’s still great to meet up with friends on this ride.”
This year’s home base was Sioux City.
Monday’s route took one group to Le Mars and back, while another group branched out after leaving Le Mars and passed through the towns of Kingsley, Moville, Bronson and Lawton, before heading back to Sioux City.
Tuesdays’ route led drivers to Onawa and back to Sioux City, while day three took drivers to Sloan and back.
Hunt, 75, brought his 1965 John Deere 5020, featuring dual chrome pipes and an 871 truck engine. This was his third or fourth WHO tractor ride, he said.
“The original engine was 150 horses, but it was ‘doggy,'” he said, “so I put a turbo charger on it and it ruined the motor eventually.” He farmed with this tractor for 20 years until four-wheel drive tractors came along.
“I never wanted to pull larger stuff necessarily,” Hunt said, “just wanted to pull what I had faster.
“This tractor is what put me on the map for farming.”
Hunt said the tractor was in the process of being worked on until the day before he left for the ride, getting new paint and new chrome stacks..
Ben and Phyllis Rogers, of Barnum, were on their eighth WHO ride, arriving with a 1928 Farmall Regular, which Ben Rogers purchased for $50 on a sale near Callender. It features an F20 front end.
“It wasn’t in running shape,” he said. “The engine, clutch, brakes and three valves were all stuck.” Rogers said he’s been collecting tractors since he was 10 years old.
“This tractor was once owned by someone during WW II, and it needed to be upgraded at the time, but the owner couldn’t find a new tractor,” Rogers said. “So he modernized it with what he could find.”
Rogers said they get a lot of thumbs up gestures from onlookers when he drives past them on parades and tractor rides.
“I like the camaraderie of this ride and the friendships that are made,” he said. “It’s fun to talk to people about their tractors.”
Spectator Ralph Klemme, of Le Mars, said the ride coming through his community was thrilling.
“It’s such an opportunity for Le Mars and for Plymouth County,” he said. “It brings the people in and shows off our community, and it’s a pleasure having these people here.”
Area 4-H groups worked with the county pork producers to help feed more than 600 participants.
One of the most moving displays was a traveling memorial to veterans from all wars. It was a Farmall tractor, painted black, and featured the names of 82 men and women from Iowa who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“There are four more names we need to put on the tractor now,” said Herb Lobberecht, of Eddyville, who owns the tractor with his wife, Eloise. “Some people didn’t like that we painted the tractor black, but it was appropriate.”
A Vietnam veteran himself, Lobberecht said it’s important to him and his family that these Iowa veterans are remembered. The tractor was made into this moving tribute to veterans in 2008.
“We would like to think that all of the names are on there now that will be on there, but we keep needing to add more,” said Eloise Lobberecht, pointing out the plates near the bottom of the front end of the tractor. There is still room for more names.
Dallas Koch came from Wellsburg in Grundy County to show off his 1937 Farmall F20. Onlookers enjoyed watching him stand in front of his tractor and crank-start it. This was his 17th WHO ride.
Greg Brandt, of Moville in Plymouth County, said has been on this ride for 10 years. He attends with a large group of family members and friends each time. This year they got 13 tractors ready for the ride.
“This is our fishing trip replacement,” he said. “We just get a bunch of Oliver tractors together and go.
“We’ve met so many people doing this, and we look forward to seeing each other and meeting new people each year. It will be especially great this year because this WHO tractor ride has never been to this part of the state before.”
During the lunch break, part of the ride in Le Mars, Brant saw from the pavement below that one of the tractors in his fleet was leaking.
“I guess not all of them are on the parade-ready list, he joked.
One farmer, who brought a 1951 Toro Bullet, because it gets more people looking at it than the Oliver 70 that he used to bring, said this tractor ride is fun, but there’s another reason he enjoys doing it.
“The world looks a lot different at 14 miles an hour,” he said. “You see a lot of people and some different country from a lot closer up.”
Janine Van Vark, tractor ride co-coordinator, said Sioux City made a good place to start and end each day.
“We’re happy to use Sioux City as our home base this year,” Van Vark said. “The people here have been absolutely fantastic to work with and have made us feel like we are at home and a part of their community.”
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