Travels with Children

The adventures I embark upon with my four young children.

The Last Dance

We made a two-day trip to Iowa this weekend and did some fun and interesting things that I’ll write about in the days to come, but I’m going to post about our last stop first.

We visited the tiny town of Nemaha, Iowa, (population 70), with a couple thousand other people who wanted to see the Farmall Promenade.  I had heard about these square-dancing tractors earlier this summer and had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to go see them.  Suddenly summer was closing in on us, and we found our opportunity.

As we talked to people in the area, we almost decided against going.  One woman told us that the show is really entertaining, but that they were expecting a lot of people and that it would probably be hard to see.  Unless they brought in bleachers; maybe they’ll have bleachers, she said . . . but it’s going to be hard to see.  With this information, we hemmed and hawed about whether we should go.  In the end, we decided that we had nothing to lose, and since my husband and I really did want to see the show, we’d give it a try.

We arrived in Nemaha at 2:45 for the 4:00 show.  Attendants showed us where to park, and we headed to the site.  The organizers had indeed set up bleachers, as well as benches on hay bales, and space for people who’d brought their own lawn chairs.  We spotted an elevated platform with a few chairs on it and staked our claim on the rest of the area.  That was definitely our best move, because it allowed us a good view, as well as a little space for the kids to move around without bothering other people.  If we hadn’t arrived early, it would have been difficult to find a vantage point for the kids (and us) to really see the show well.

It was hot in Nemaha, and the wait was pretty long, but I’ll give the kids a lot of credit:  they handled it well.  I had brought snacks and drinks for them, which helped as well, and there were reasonably-priced concessions available.

Finally, at 4:00, the show began.  The four groups of Mr. and “Mrs.” boarded their Farmall tractors and the dancing began to the call of a very capable and entertaining Laurie Mason-Schmidt, who put her heart and soul into the show.  In between “dances,” there were entertaining bits and some nice tributes to the people who have worked with the Farmall Promenade for the past ten years–the lady who made cookies before every bus trip, the Star Energy station that provided the gas for the tractors and never sent a bill, the wives of the dancer-drivers, and many more.

The best part, though, was the dancing.  Watching eight tractors do-si-do and swing their partners was a sight to see.  The tractor wheels were often just inches apart as they spun in their circles, and these are tractors without power steering. 

This was small-town Iowa at its best.  People from Nemaha and the surrounding communities had gotten the promenade set up for their visitors, and had a meal for 1,800 people planned afterward.  From the national anthem to the last bow, I had tears in my eyes several times as I watched how this group of people and their community had come together with something unique and entertaining.

We were so glad we went.  The kids each had their own favorite parts–the tractors “wound and wound,” the big circle at the end, the antics of the drivers–and although they complained about the heat, they were fully at attention when the tractors were dancing.  It’s hard to describe exactly how and why we enjoyed this so much, but it was really one of the nicest family things we’ve done together.

If you want to go to the Farmall Promenade, well . . . you can’t.  You see, this was the last dance.  After ten years of promenading, the Farmalls will be parked once again.  They’ll be missed.

For more information on the Farmall Promenade, visit www.farmallpromenade.com

I also posted some video clips on Youtube.

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1 Comment»

  Jess wrote @

Oh wow! It sounds like a great time! Thanks for sharing the story with us!


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