DELAWARE, Ohio – Dating is about being in good company, having a little fun – perhaps even a bit of dancing.
Ed Moore and his sidekick, John Deere, go on plenty of summer dates. They just clean up, pull on some jeans and head to the fair to dance with the ladies.
Ed climbs aboard his jean-wearing tractor and spectators stare as the duo swings the ladies round and round, promenading them left and right.
Tractor square dancing makes crowds marvel; they’ve never seen anything like it. And neither had Ed until 10 years ago.
‘By golly, it worked.’ Ed and Judy Moore loved to square dance, but Ed also loved farming and his collection of vintage John Deeres.
When Ed first heard that people actually square danced on tractors, he laughed with uncertainty. But the thought of combining his two hobbies sent his mind spinning.
By that evening, he was already picturing how he could manipulate the brakes, clutch and wheel to make the tractors dance.
“Then I tried it on a tractor at home, and by golly, it worked,” Ed said.
After a decade, he’s still swinging.
Dirt to dust. Willing couples weren’t too hard to find. Ed was president of the Delaware County Antique Tractor Association in Ohio and had an easy time rounding up dancers in the club.
Four couples dance at a time, two pairs on John Deeres and two on Farmalls.
The green and red kaleidoscope of swings, allemandes and do-si-dos crushes dirt to dust – and if it’s raining, a muddy mess.
Rain and mud make the front wheels slide, but umbrella-covered bystanders still pack the bleachers. So, despite the weather conditions, the dancers dance.
Smudges and bumps. Even with 3 tons of metal beneath them, the tractor dancers make it look almost easy – but dangerous.
Although the wheels are mere inches from each other as the couples swing, Judy said it’s not as scary as it looks.
“It looks worse when you’re standing on the ground than when you’re up on the tractor,” she said.
She must be right. Although the tractors look like they’re about to crash into each other, it rarely happens.
A few black smudges mark the hub, but otherwise the tractors – and drivers – are none the worse for the wear.
In fourth gear, going about 5 miles an hour, the drivers dance with a combination of locking wheels, punching the clutch, setting the brakes and turning the wheel – also known as “swingin’ ’em around and around.”
Vintage vice. What started out as a joke to Ed quickly turned into a hobby for him and Judy. And he takes it seriously.
Ed hauls the group’s tractors to about a dozen fairs and festivals each year on the back of his two semis.
And with 60 restored vintage tractors at his grain farm in Delaware County, Ohio, Ed always has one handy for a fellow dancer to borrow.
Tradition. The Delaware County Tractor Square Dancers sets itself apart from the other two Ohio square-dancing groups. Traditional Eastern-style steps mark their specialty.
Caller Mack Shepard has led the group from the start with dances like She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain, Split the King, Swap ‘N Swing, Hip-Hip-Hooray and March Through Georgia.
Down and dirty. People along the way interest Ed and Judy the most. Especially the way people come out of the woodwork to help if a tractor breaks down at a fair.
“The audience loves tractors and will help out just because they love them. They’ll do anything to get in and get their hands dirty,” Judy said.
Spinning tractors like pinwheels comes with a cost, the biggest of which is getting new brakes every two years.
Practice much? Spectators can’t imagine how much practice it must take for eight tractors and eight drivers to learn synchronization.
They always ask about practicing, Judy said, but are surprised to hear the answer.
The group practiced just six times before dancing its first show and hasn’t practiced much since.
“We actually do worse when we practice,” Ed laughed.
As for Ed and Judy still square dancing the old-fashioned way, meaning on foot: “I guess we’re getting lazy. We mostly just dance on the tractors now.”
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Want to see tractor square dancing?
* Aug. 1, Mount Hope Tractor Show, Mount Hope, Ohio; 6 p.m.
* Aug. 2, Morrow County Antique, Mount Gilead, Ohio; 7 p.m.
* Aug. 16, Eaton Fairgrounds, Eaton, Ohio; 6 p.m.
* Aug. 24, Fairfield County Tractor Club, Lancaster, Ohio; 1 p.m.
* Aug. 31, Richwood Fair, Richwood, Ohio; 6 p.m.
* Sept. 6, Clinton County Corn Show, Wilmington, Ohio; 4 p.m.
* Sept. 13, Delaware County Fair, Delaware, Ohio; 7 p.m.
* Sept. 20, Centerburg, Ohio; 4:30 p.m.
* Sept. 21, Centerburg, Ohio; 12:30 p.m.
* Oct. 11, Bob Evans Farm Festival, Rio Grande, Ohio; 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m.
* Oct. 12, Bob Evans Farm Festival, Rio Grande; 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m.
Get the details
* Delaware County Tractor Square Dancers
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