Square-dancing tractors: That's a thing at the Indiana State Fair

Members of Lily Pearl's Square Square Dancing Tractors line up before the beginning of their routine Aug. 6 at the Indiana State Fair. Jordan Huffer / BSU Journalism at the Fair
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Four men dressed in drag, eight International Harvester Farmall tractors, blaring banjo do-si-do music, and a Grandstand full of people both perplexed and amazed.

Lily Pearl's Square Dancing Tractors of Rochester performed Wednesday, showing off fancy driving and crazy antics on the Indiana State Fair's dirt track. The show incorporated traditional square dancing with a twist as the commentator goaded on the drivers maneuvering around each other.

“Do we not have the best looking women from Fulton County?” said commentator Jana Vance, who also is the superintendent of Rochester Community Schools.

Leaders Carl Overmyer and “Skeeter” Daugherty said they got the idea from another square dancing tractor show they saw and wanted to recreate that experience. As members of the Fulton County Historical Power Association, the group thought square dancing would be a great way to use their antique tractors.

After multiple YouTube videos tutorials and four-hour practices every Sunday, Lily Pearl's Square Dancing Tractors was born and is now three years old.

The reason the group uses cross-dressing men is because they can't find enough women to pair everyone up. The four “women” of the group work as a lumberjack, mechanic, farmer and a police officer.

One of the younger drivers, Zack Gordon, 17, got his dad to join after seeing a Lily Pearl performance in Rochester. Now they're square-dancing partners, Zack in a blond wig.

“I wanted to do stupid stuff with tractors,” said Zack, looking down at his cowgirl boots.

To choreograph the intricate turns, the dancing drivers used diagrams and toy tractors to visualize their moves.

“From a perspective of an older guy, I thought it was fantastic,” said audience member Michael Wock. “I don't think everyone understands that there is a lot of skill involved.”

Owner of 22 antique tractors, Tom Hedrick said he made a special trip to see the show.

Most farmers who drive tractors everyday can make tight turns like the audience saw in the show, said Hedrick, “but you have to be thinking ahead to not crash into the other drivers.”

The highlight of the show was an eight-wide line of tractors that rotated in a circle without colliding.

“Our dream was to make it here to the Indiana State Fair,” said Daughtery.

Next goal: the Farm Machinery Show in Louisville.

Kayla Crandall is a writer for BSU Journalism at the Fair, a Ball State University immersive-learning project placing 25 student journalists at the heart of the Midway to tell the weird and wonderful stories of the 2014 Indiana State Fair.