Trail of tractors coming to Jackson
JACKSON -- Although Jackson's sesquicentennial celebration is more than a month away, folks in this southern Minnesota community are finding unique ways to celebrate their rural heritage all year long.
Such will be the case next Friday and Saturday, when the community serves as host to a caravan of antique and classic tractors -- 250 in all -- that will parade throughout the county in a two-day span encompassing a northern route and a southern route.
Sponsored by KICD radio of Spencer, Iowa, the tractor ride is in its seventh year. This is the first time, however, that the ride will take place all within one county's boundaries, according to KICD-FM program director Rhonda Wedeking.
The antique tractor ride camped overnight in Jackson two years ago, and the local residents enjoyed the visit so much, they asked KICD to bring the event back for the sesquicentennial, Wedeking said.
Registration begins at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at the Jackson County Fairgrounds, with the ride slated to begin at 7 a.m. Friday. The first day will take participants throughout the northern half of Jackson County, visiting the towns of Bergen, Heron Lake and Lakefield. That evening, at 5:30, an antique tractor pull will be conducted in front of the grandstand on the fairgrounds. While there is a fee to participate in the pull -- and some tractors taking part in the ride will be in the tractor pull -- the event is free and open to spectators.
Saturday's route will take tractor riders through Round Lake and Sioux Valley before returning to the Jackson County Fairgrounds.
All 250 slots for the ride were filled last September.
"We try to announce (the following year's destination) the first day of the Clay County Fair," said Wedeking. Ride participants consist mainly of tractor owners from Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska, although some are coming from as far away as New York, Oregon, Arizona, Montana and Vermont.
Wedeking said the ride serves as kind of a reunion for some of the participants.
"They all get together and tell each other what they worked on during the last year," she said. "There's a lot of leaning on tires, telling stories."
For some, it's also a time to gather with the rest of their family.
There are dads and sons, brothers and entire families taking part this year. The Jones brothers -- four in all -- are among the expected participants. The men, in their 60s, will each drive a version of their family's favorite -- the Farmall. The quartet hails from communities in Arizona and Iowa.
The Taylor family -- including mom and dad, their son, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter -- will all drive red tractors in the ride, as well.
As for the vintage of the tractors in this year's ride, Wedeking said they range from about the late 1940s through the early 1960s.
"Wayne Schneekloth (of Jackson) will drive his Minneapolis R with a factory cab," she said. "A 1943 -- it is a classic to say the least. It's one of the few cabs that will be on the ride."
Before anyone thinks all they will see are red tractors on this ride, Wedeking assures there will be plenty of different makes and models of tractors participating.
"There's every color imaginable," she said. "It's not just John Deere, it's not just International.
"Some of them have fancy paint jobs -- thousands of dollars in a paint job -- and we've got some (drivers) coming in their work clothes," Wedeking added.
When KICD sponsored its first ride seven years ago, the station had 75 people and their tractors in the lineup. The following year, the number of participants nearly doubled.
"After that, we put a limit of 200 riders on the ride and we still had a waiting list," Wedeking said. Last year, they increased it to 250 tractors, and there is about 50 guys on the waiting list for this year's event.
Spectators hoping to see the tractor ride are invited to park in any of the communities hosting the ride in Jackson County Friday or Saturday.
"The guys get a charge out of people parked at the end of the driveway and watching them go by," Wedeking added. "Most of these (tractors) are painted up pretty and they like showing them off."