Another summer and another tractor ride in the books! 2023 was my 9th year participating in the annual Tractor Ride Around West Lake (T.R.A.W.L.) that the Okoboji FFA puts on. For those of you who don’t know what it is, I am sure you have seen or heard it make its way through town and possibly through your neighborhood!
Each year, antique tractor owners from across the area and even across the Midwest make their way to Milford, IA to get together for a tractor ride through the Iowa Great Lakes. The route changes each year, providing different sights for everyone and an up close view of some of our area’s beautiful scenery and remarkable lake homes, which is exactly what sets this tractor ride apart from the others.
Everyone gathers at the Milford Florence Park right after sunrise to line up the tractors, get signed up into a group and kick off the morning with a pancake breakfast. After breakfast and before the ride, the Okoboji FFA holds a raffle to win an antique tractor, that the FFA students have spent the past year restoring to it's factory shine. If you are the lucky winner, it is already fueled up and ready to roll, if you’d like to take it on the ride! This year’s route went East out of Milford and up to Lower Gar, through the south side of Minnewashta, briefly up Hwy 71 and all the way along the north shore of East Lake before taking our break at the Dickinson County Fairgrounds. After break, we made our way to the north side of West Lake, where we enjoyed Lakeshore Drive down to Terrace Beach and back into Milford. The ride took about 3.5 hours this year and felt like the perfect amount of time. After the ride, the FFA had the grill fired up and burgers for lunch. It is a very well organized event that is fun for everyone and keeps us all coming back year after year.
My favorite part of T.R.A.W.L. is seeing the number of families get involved. It’s not just tractor operators. We have seen more and more tractors pulling old restored grain wagons or trailers with benches, seats, umbrellas and awnings for their families to ride in and enjoy the route as well. In addition to this, I have seen an overwhelming amount of people line the residential side streets in lawn chairs, having their morning coffee (or bloody Mary) just to wave and see the tractors roll though. This is why our wagon is filled with bags of candy for the kids to throw to the spectators. Everyone is all smiles and with the ride always being at the end of July, the weather has nearly always been perfect.
So if you hear T.R.A.W.L. thundering though town and you’re thinking “Wow, it doesn’t get any more ‘Iowa’ than this…” just know that this is one of the few days of the year many of us get to dust off the old tractors being passed down through the generations and a day to celebrate these incredible American made machines. If you have an old tractor you’ve been wanting to get out and stretch its legs, I encourage you to sign up for next year. Whether you prefer John Deere, Allis-Chalmers, Oliver, Farmall etc., bring it out, take it on the ride and experience the Okoboji area in a new fun way!
Registration to drive in the ride is $30, which includes a meal and the year’s famous TRAWL hat. If you would like more information on T.R.A.W.L. contact Rich Martin at email@example.com