Over 140 tractors of various makes and models made their way casually through Benton county and the surrounding area on Friday and Saturday for the 2020 North Iowa Tractor Ride, its first trip through the county in its 13-year history.

“I feel it could not have gone any better,” Jamie Nelson, the coordinator of the ride said. “Everyone respected social distancing, rolled out on time, stayed on course and enjoyed themselves.”

The riders began their journey from Vinton on Friday morning to Brandon to visit the community center and the state’s largest frying pan. From there, the ride took a slight southwest turn down to La Porte City and Union High School. Members of the La Porte-Dysart FFA served food to the riders as they cooled down in the cafeteria or under the shade of trees on campus. Their ride continued as they circled through nearby Hickory Hills Park and down to Dysart to stop in the city park. Vinton served as an overnight stop for the riders at the fairgrounds. They enjoyed dinner downtown or partook in grilled meats from the Benton County Cattlemen’s Association.

“The first day was all good,” Mark Happel of Vinton said. “It was nice to get out and enjoy the country at a slower pace. You miss so much when you’re going 55 through the county.”

Leaving from Vinton on Saturday morning, the North Iowa Tractor Ride made its way up to Urbana, down to Palo and stopped for lunch at Bloomsbury Farm in rural Atkins. Karen Petersen and her family were excited to host the riders for burgers, games and photo ops on their farm for the evening and enjoyed hope to host again in the future.

“My husband is in heaven,” Petersen said. “He just loves antique tractors. This is his family’s fifth generation farm and was really digging the idea of hosting this ride. When the organizers approached us, we knew we had plenty of room to host.”

Amid COVID-19 concerns, the usual 200 riders a year was reduced to 140 registered riders signing up this season. Yet Nelson did not feel anything was taken away from the experience and was “thrilled” with the turnout.

“I limit the ride so I can keep a personal touch,” Nelson said. “We want to mingle and talk with the riders.”

Happel was participating in his first North Iowa Tractor Ride, but stated he enjoys going to “several rides a year” in the nearby area. He drove a 2255 Oliver through both days, the only vehicle on the ride with a cab. Happel included several of his grandchildren over the course of the two days as well.

“I enjoyed seeing the Olivers, but also the Nationals and the rare John Deeres I saw on the ride,” Happel said. “The people on the ride were very polite, very friendly. This was a well organized ride and I’d ride it again if they are ever close by again.”

Nelson is open to bring the North Iowa Tractor Ride back down to the area again in the future after a successful ride through Benton County this season. She thanked her staff and the participating riders for making 2020 a possibility despite COVID concerns in Iowa.

“The riders really enjoyed the communities we stopped in, visiting Bloomsbury Farm and driving through Hickory Hills,” Nelson said. “Those who come back each year enjoy meeting new riders and seeing familiar faces. This is about the only time of year people may see each other. It’s like a big family reunion.”