When Bill Blough was 9, he promenaded, turned and twirled while square dancing at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
On Friday, the Jennerstown man did it again, this time atop a 1962 John Deere tractor in the Large Arena as spectators cheered him on.
There was nothing square about the tractor square dancing that highlighted the seventh day of the 97th Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Tractor square dancing features two eight-member teams guiding antique tractors through dances. The Middlecreek Swingers of Snyder County and the Roof Garden Tractor Buddies of Somerset County each danced their way around the arena on roaring tractors which they brought close together in the dance, but somehow didn’t crash.
The drivers, mostly men, sat on tractors that included red Farmall, orange Allis Chalmers, green Oliver, and green and yellow John Deere. They started up the pretty pieces of Americana and began driving them. Since there weren’t enough women to play the female roles, some men on each team donned skirts and bonnets, bashfully grinning at the silliness of it all.
As music blared through the arena and callers sang directions, drivers performed intricate square dance movements aboard blue, red, green, yellow, orange, silver and even pink tractors of yesteryear. Human square dancers in the crowd recognized such moves as pinwheels, spin the top, split and spin and wheel and deal.
The Roof Garden group performed about half of their dance without music, then livened it up with music. They demonstrated amazing dexterity, showing that old tractors can move with grace and elegance.
Then the Middlecreek group took to the arena, spinning, driving in lines that intersected but never bumped and making graceful circles. They formed into stars, wagon wheels and more, finishing with a chorus line that brought more applause.
Tractor square dancing tends to be a family event.
The Middlecreek team, which included enough drivers to switch out for the second dance, has married couples, a father and daughter, a grandfather and grandson and two brothers. It also has thee generations of one family, Delavan Whitenight of Danville; his daughter, Becky Tappe of Mifflinville; and his grandson, John Esenwein of Danville. Becky Tappe’s husband, Mark, also is on the team. The Roof Garden group has brothers.
“I’ve square danced since I was 10,” Blough said. “We have a good time getting ready for this. We practice every Wednesday night in the summer, then we eat. We do 10 shows a year.”
Bob Klinger of Selinsgrove drove a 1953 Oliver while his wife, Shelby, drove what she described as a “Pepto Bismol” pink McCormick Farmall.
“This is a real crowd pleaser,” Klinber said. “People are amazed at what we can do on these old tractors.”