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These Tractors Square Dance
Darrel Holsopple admits he didn’t know a Do Si Do from an Allemande Left, but he did know how to drive a tractor when he was convinced to join the Roof Garden Tractor Buddies square dancers. Now in his sixth year, he’s president of the Pennsylvania club, which has booked 10 performances for 2023, mostly in their home county of Somerset, often referred to as the Roof Garden of Pennsylvania.
Tractor Buddies was formed in 2002. Many founders also square danced and were inspired by another tractor square dancing group. Using tractors to square dance can be traced back to the Ohio State Fair in 1939 when four girls and four boys were trained to “square dance” with Model B Allis Chalmers tractors to market the tractor’s agility.
“We currently have 38 members and 12 active drivers plus the caller,” Holsopple says. Drivers’ ages range from 17 to 80, and there are a couple of grandfather/grandson pairs.
Learning to dance with tractors takes practice, and members meet weekly from May to September at retired driver John Zehner’s farm. Practices start at 7 p.m. to accommodate the farmers’ schedules, and the evening ends with food and family time.
Tractors are stored at the farm and cover the gamut of models from a 1940 Massey Harris and 1942 Farmalls to 1962 John Deere and Minneapolis Moline tractors. Narrow front ends are the only requirement.
For performances, a 120-ft. dia. circle is drawn on grass or a hard surface. Drivers take their places and have a little fun wearing hats, wigs, and outfits or putting something on their tractors to depict male and female dancers.
Holsopple credits Edith Rhoads’ calling for keeping the drivers’ timing right. She has two microphones, one that the audience can hear and one to talk to drivers wearing earbuds.
Thanks to the help from sponsors (especially Allied Milk Producers) and performance fees, the nonprofit Tractor Buddies have purchased trailers to haul tractors and sound equipment. Audiences range from nursing home residents to farm show attendees to fairgoers.
“Going to the Pennsylvania Farm Show (in Harrisburg) is a highlight for us because there are a lot of people there,” Holsopple says. Public television often covers the tractor square dancing.
Being part of the club is a lot of work and a commitment of time and money, Holsopple says. But the Tractor Buddies have become family, and with five drivers under the age of 25, the club has a bright future.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Roof Garden Tractors, Somerset, Penn. (ph 814-525-2392; holsopplellc@gmail.com; www.roofgardentractorbuddies.com).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #4