Participants in the Covered Bridges of Madison County Antique Tractor ride grabbed their keys, stepped aboard their motor vehicles with large rear wheels, and prepared to take to the gravel roads on Friday morning.
Normally used for pulling farm machinery, that morning their vehicles served as more of a convertible for touring as they visited the covered bridges of Madison County. Some drivers traveled alone, while others brought their wives along for a fun-filled adventure.
The tractor ride normally kicks off the festivities for the Covered Bridge Festival weekend as riders tour the various bridges around the county on Friday, travel the roads for a scenic trip on Saturday, and round out the weekend with participation in the parade on Sunday.
However, this year the difficult decision was made to cancel the annual festival due to COVID-19 health concerns, so there was no parade. Organizers continued with plans for this year’s event and welcomed all riders who were tired of having nothing to do and were ready to get out of the house.
“My dad started it 19 years ago in conjunction with the Covered Bridge Festival,” said event organizer Curtis Saveraid. “He passed away in 2011, our family has kept it going since.”
According to Saveraid, the Antique Tractor Ride was inspired by the late Mark Pearson of WHO radio, a Madison County resident. He is credited as one of the founders of the original tractor ride at WHO.
This year’s ride started on Friday morning at around 8:30 a.m. as 41 antique tractors of various makes and models lined up one after another at the Madison County Fairgrounds to prepare for the bridge tour.
After the morning tour, the group was to convene at Hogback Covered Bridge north of Winterset, for a lunch provided by the Madison County Cattlemen.
Event coordinators commented that riders from Missouri, Nebraska, and as far away as South Dakota have traveled to Winterset to participate, and they really enjoy seeing the
bridges and the fall colors.
Raymond Vais from Exira took part in this year’s ride driving his 1950 Row Crop 66 tractor. Having participated in previous years, he said that he had been across the state of Iowa in both directions, and had traveled in
all six states adjoining Iowa.
In his 80s and quite ingenious, Vais installed a mountain bike wheel just in front of the right-hand side back wheel, so he could monitor his speed and track the miles he had covered.
The ride continued on Saturday morning with ten fewer tractors, as the group gathered once again at the Madison County Fairgrounds around 8:30 a.m. to set out on a scenic tour
of the county. An afternoon lunch was then provided by the Madison County Pork Producers.
In spite of the pandemic, the Covered Bridges of Madison County Antique Tractor ride for 2020 was a success thanks to the hard work of Curtis, Jami, and Donna Saveraid, along with Megan Newberry. Mother Nature had a role as well in providing some fantastic weather and gorgeous scenery.
A perfect weekend for antique tractor drivers to get together and share their passion.