The city of Centerburg, Ohio, transforms the third weekend of September into a farmers fall festival with apple peeling contest, hay bale throwing and numerous festival games and events, but one event that stands out above the rest is the tractor square dance. Country folks love to attend this farm festival for good old fashion fun and a tractor do-si-do.
Finding something fun and exciting to do with a group of John Deere and Farmall tractors isn’t easy, but a group of square dancers found a way to dance with their tractors. Yes, you heard right, dancing with tractors in square dancing fashion apparently isn’t a new trend but it is one of the lesser known forms of entertainment.
A team of eight men and women traveled with their tractors to Centerburg, Ohio, home of the Old Time Farming Festival and performed one of the most unusual farming events of all time, a tractor square dance. This dance troupe has been on the road for over two decades exciting crowds at farm and agricultural events across Ohio and adjoining states.
Photographs taken of the event on the Old Time Farming Festival website capture the imagination for those who have not seen this one of a kind event in person and clearly shows you can do more than harvest with an old farm tractor. There is definitely a lighter, humorous side of farm life and living in a rural community.
One can only imagine tractor driving dancers passing one another tire to tire and circling each other back to back, first your partner then the driver to the left. Two by two partners making rounds, be careful don’t rub in this hoedown.
The history of the Delaware hoe downers dates back to August 1993, Ed Moore heard people square danced with their tractors and decided he wanted to try it. It wasn’t long before he gathered a group of eight men and women dancers and started his own tractor square dance group. The couples practiced square dancing on their feet then took to their tractors and it worked. Now these folks travel around performing spectacular dances at many Ohio events.
How it started
In the beginning the tractor square dancers used hand signals to make their moves and their was no caller or music, but the Delaware County Tractor Square Dancers use vintage 1950’s John Deer and Farmall tractors that are “dressed” in pants for men and skirts for women.
Adding a caller
“Swing your partner round and round, hit that left brake and crank that wheel to the left, allemande left, three hands round, get those right tires as close as you can,” the caller announces. “All four couples swing and promenade.” They promenade, allemande and swing their three ton tractors in fourth gear with the wheels inches apart from one another. The whirling and spinning is quite the show and spectators say they get dizzy and worn out from watching.
How often do they practice?
The group is often asked how often they practice, the Delaware dancers got together about six times before their first show in 1993, but since then they haven’t practiced. They are seasoned performers but occasionally they want to try something new or need to refresh their memory and that is when they “walk” through a performance on foot and then mount up on their tractors and put on a show.