—by Todd Thorson

(tthorson@storycityherald.com)

It was a beautiful weekend for the North Iowa Tractor Ride to roll through Cyclone Country this year. From Thursday thru Saturday, July 18-20, over 200 antique tractors and their owners settled in at the Iowa State Center in Ames for three days of "exploration" of Central Iowa’s towns and attractions. Arriving on Thursday, the group utilized the Jack Trice Stadium and Hilton Coliseum parking lots as their home base. The ISU Alumni Center served as the ride’s headquarters.

The North Iowa Tractor Ride’s annual excursion (not to be confused with the one based out of Des Moines, and co-sponsored by WHO, that came through Story City a few years ago) is presented by the North Iowa Broadcasting group and Auto Edge of Mason City. It is a cooperative effort by radio stations 98.7 KISS Country and 103.7 The FOX in Mason City and 95.1 The Bull in New Hampton, as well as various other sponsors.

Friday’s busy day included some of the most famous Central Iowa sites, including the Boone Railroad Museum, Reiman Gardens, The Iowa Arboretum, Ledges State Park and the scenic Boone River Valley.

Following Friday’s full itinerary, a more leisurely final day on Saturday consisted of a mid-morning trip to Roland for some of that small town hospitality we love to share. With temperatures in the low- to mid-80s and plenty of sunshine, this writer thoroughly enjoyed a summer jaunt through the area countryside in search of antique tractors.

With our Jeep’s top down, "oldies" playing on the radio and my wife and son along for the ride, it soon became a wonderful day of observation, exploration, food and refreshment. After first looking west for the arriving tractors (I unfortunately read the map and the directions wrong) we finally spotted the first wave of tractors coming over the rolling hills on R77 south of Roland. The tractor "parade", along with their friendly and waving drivers, was soon motoring through the streets of Roland. They ended up parked side by side in the downtown business district for all to view and enjoy. Three to four different waves of tractors made their way into Roland for a few hours of socializing and relaxation. Many of the tractors were from the 1940s and 1950s.

Roland’s hospitality (always present whenever we visit) consisted of a lunch for the riders at the Community Center, which was sponsored by the Economic Development Corporation. Bergen Lutheran Church served up ice cream (see photo on page one) and the Roland Legion Auxiliary sold commemorative dog tags and bracelets to help fund their annual scholarship fund. "Rollin’ into Roland" t-shirts were also sold. We were even able to enjoy the Roland Legion’s hospitality despite a power outage on the west side of Main Street. (I highly recommend, for those who have never had one, the Legion’s Bloody Mary. They are fantastic!)

By early afternoon the tractors began heading west out of Roland for their return trip to Ames, via E18 and R38. Upon arriving back in Ames, a farewell ceremony was held to close out their busy weekend.

Now in the motoring spirit ourselves, we too decided to extend our "day trip" as well, heading north in search of additional Central Iowa enjoyments.

It was indeed a great day to be out in the central Iowa countryside. The fabulous day also lent itself to a trip to Radcliffe for the annual Radcliffe Days celebration. A visit to Babe’s Steakhouse and the recently opened ice cream parlor, as well as a stroll through the busy park activities and a stop at the infamous "Zeke’s Garage", made us all realize just how special small town life in Iowa truly is. The only thing we missed was a trip to Stanhope for Watermelon Day, but we just ran out of time. Maybe next year!