Some 380 tractors rolled through Council Bluffs on Sunday and will remain in the vicinity until Wednesday for the 23rd annual WHO Great Iowa Tractor Ride.
This is the first time the show has been held in southwest Iowa, with the tractors beginning and ending each day at the Westfair Amphitheater east of Council Bluffs on U.S. Highway 6.
Broadcasters for WHO radio in Des Moines originated the idea for the tractor ride around 23 years ago, and the event has continued every year since, according to Scot Knock, tractor ride director with WHO Radio.
“It’s been our contribution to keep agriculture strong in Iowa and help keep this great state what it,” Knock said.
This year participants represented 65 of Iowa’s 99 counties. Other participants registered and arrived from out of state, including Texas, Kentucky and Virginia.
Knock said police and other local agencies were contacted ahead of time to keep the roads safe and prepare for the amount of people and tractors.
He described this as a six-month journey during which he worked with state patrol, deputies, and made multiple trips to Council Bluffs to visit multiple agencies.
The event began on Sunday when participants unloaded and registered their antique tractors.
The tractors included a variety of makes and models including those from John Deere, International, Mccormick and Farmall, to name a few.
Once all of the tractors were unloaded, speakers included West Pottawattamie County Farm Bureau President Kelby Vorthmann; Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds; Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig; U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue; and Bill Northey, U.S. Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation with the United States Department of Agriculture.
Nikki Woods, event coordinator for Westfair, said around 1,000 people attended the opening, including the speeches.
This participants included the 380 individuals registered as well as spouses and other attending family members.
“I’ve been doing this with mom and pop, and once you’ve done this a few years you get to know a lot of the people,” said Mark Kenyon, a participant for 20 years from Bettendorf, Iowa.
Monday, participants rode though the Loess Hills to Missouri Valley for lunch via the Old Lincoln Highway.
Woods explained the tractors were separated into groups depending on the make and model. She said each group traveled about 10 minutes apart and that helped traveling flow smoothly.
After lunch, the group traveled to Agriland FS in Underwood before returning to Westfair.
“It was a beautiful ride, the best I’ve been on,” said Leon Larson, a third-year participant from York.
Today the tractors will travel east to Riverside High School before heading to Carstens 1880 Farmstead in Shelby for lunch.
This afternoon, the procession will stop at Arrowhead Park near Neola before returning to Westfair.
Area residents are welcome to come to Westfair to look at the tractors and speak to participants and family members during the evening.
Wednesday will be the final day for the tractor ride. Drivers will travel a short route to Treynor for brunch before packing up their tractors and heading home.
“We’d love to have the community venture out and take a look,” Woods said. “With the rain, don’t wear your good shoes; but come out and visit with the riders and their families and have some fun.”