Take a Scenic Drive Around West Lake Okoboji

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Every July, the Okoboji FFA holds a tractor ride that showcases the beauty of the Iowa Great Lakes area. Over 200 tractors meet at Florence Park in Milford to take part in a scenic tour along a specified route around West Lake Okoboji.

“This will be our 18th year putting on TRAWL, which stands for Tractor Ride Around West Lake,” said Okoboji FFA advisor Rich Martin. “The TRAWL ride is different and unique because you are not just driving your tractor down a gravel road with dust and looking at soybean and corn fields. On this ride you get to look at all the cool houses on the Lake and all the neat landscaping along the route.”

TRAWL began in 2006, after Martin’s Restoration Tractor class restored their first tractor during the school year. The students brainstormed ways to showcase the restored tractor and the idea of a tractor ride came up in conversation.

“The kids and I thought it would be something cool and different to do, especially when there is already a bicycle ride around the Lake,” he shared.

This year, the tractor ride will take place on Sunday, July 28, beginning at 7:45 a.m. in Milford. The official route will be posted on their Facebook page, but Martin said this year’s scenic drive will most likely be traveling on Lakeshore Drive along West Lake Okoboji.

Through the years, he has heard comments about how nice it is to drive slowly around the Lakes area and have time to enjoy the different scenery. “Riders talk about all of the different roads that they never knew even existed,” he added.

The most tractors TRAWL has ever had was 260 riders, but the ride tends to average closer to 200 every year. All sorts of tractors will be seen on the route.

“You will see some tractors that have been restored and cleaned up looking like new to other tractors that were just unhooked from the Implement and used for the tractor ride,” Martin said. “I also feel that many people in the ride and those that come out of their houses to watch the tractors, enjoy seeing so many different types of tractors.”

Martin said if he had to pick his favorite tractor, it would be his Farmall 350. “But I love all older tractors,” he added.

Every year, there is a group of men that come back to enjoy TRAWL, with some participating since it began. Martin said there are also new riders each year that get invited by past riders. “They all claim it is one of their favorite rides they go on,” he shared.

Riders come from all over Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska. One gentleman drives his Farmall H tractor and pulls a wagon from the Sioux Falls, SD area, all the way to Milford for the tractor ride.

“My favorite thing about our annual tractor ride is seeing all of the people coming out to enjoy their tractors and our beautiful Lakes area,” said current FFA President Michael Gonnerman. “I have ridden in our tractor ride for the last three years and it is always a blast riding old tractors through the Lakes and seeing everyone else driving their old tractors. Being able to provide a great day for many people in the area is very rewarding.”

The money raised from TRAWL goes back into the Okoboji FFA program to help pay FFA members to go to State and National FFA Conventions and plays a large role in Martin’s Restoration Tractor Class. Each year, the tractor is generously donated to the class and the TRAWL funds always help purchase parts and other items needed to restore the tractor. The restored tractor will then be raffled off to one lucky winner of the tractor ride.

“I really enjoy the restoration class and how students learn many mechanical skills, along with how to fix dents, wiring and prep work to get the tractor ready to paint,” Martin shared. “Plus, TRAWL really shows kids how to put on a big event, from ordering supplies to registering riders and taking money.”

After the initial restoration work is completed, the students get to paint the tractor at Vander Haag’s paint booth in Spencer.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for these kids to see all the steps and time it takes to get a tractor painted and restored,” he explained. “These are skills that they can take with them no matter what career path they choose to go down.”

TRAWL continues to be a huge success every year. For those who’d love a scenic drive in late July, bring your tractor or find a spot along the route to cheer on this year’s drivers. For more information, contact Rich Martin at rmartin@okobojischools.org or at (712) 330-6133.

John Erdman was the lucky winner of the
1957 Oliver Super 55 at the 2023 T.R.A.W.L.