By Mary Klaus on Jan 10, 2014
George Frymoyer’s friends thought he was “totally nuts” in 2004 when he proposed that they square dance — on antique tractors.
Ten years later, those same friends joined him Friday morning in the state Farm Show Complex Large Arena, square dancing on tractors before a sparse crowd at the next to last day of the 98th Pennsylvania Farm Show.
The Mount Pleasant Mills resident and seven other members of the Middle Creek Tractor Swingers of Snyder County delighted the crowd as they carefully maneuvered their tractors through intricate turns. As square dance caller Charlie Benner sang instructions, they performed the tea cup chain, star promenade and other typical square dance positions.
The audience seemed delighted as the tractors — all at least 50 years old — performed under the handling of four men in large tractors, Shelby Klingler on a pink tractor and three men dressed as women on three other tractors. Frymoyer a Mount Pleasant Mills resident and charter member of the tractor swingers, said that the group has made great progress in 10 years.
“When I told Charlie Benner, our caller, about tractor square dancing, he thought it was crazy,” Frymoyer said. “Then, he got eight coffee mugs and moved them around on my kitchen table to see how it would work. He later told his wife that it would be a demolition derby!”
The group’s first practice session, in the Middleburg Livestock Auction parking lot, wasn’t pretty. But when the guys parked the tractors and did the maneuvers on foot, they began to understand what to do, Soon, they were practicing every Saturday and Sunday. When they gave their first performance at the Middle Creek Antique Association show, people in the audience yelled out “you’re going to hit!”
“This is a lot of fun,” Frymoyer said. “Regular square dance sets have four men and four ladies. Charlie said that the guys with big tractors would be the men and those with smaller tractors would be the ladies. The “ladies,” who are mostly men, dress up in skirts, wigs and bonnets. We do about 12 shows a year.”
The dance began with the Middle Creek Tractor Swingers driving into the Large Arena on three red, two green, one pink, one yellow and one orange tractor with such manufacturers as John Deere, Farmall and Allis Chalmers.
Benner, a popular Snyder County square dance caller for decades, sang out the directions, sometimes saying saying “you’re doing fine,” sometimes saying ” no, turn to the left,” and sometimes telling the dancers “you’re looking neaet and looking sweet!”
As the dance went on, the maneuvers became more intricate. The tractors passed each other in lines, backed up and sometimes even made tractor pinwheels. They promenaded, do si doed and formed cloverleafs. Once, Benner sternly warned them that “there will be no collisions!”
As the Middle Creek group finished, the Roof Garden Tractor Buddies of Somerset County brought their tractors onto the floor. The 16 tractors created a star in groups of four as the crowd cheered.
Then the Roof Garden group performed a lively dance routine staring out with “Turkey in the Straw.” On such a cold, snowy day, it felt appropriate.