Aug 16, 2023

Tractors, tractors and more...tractors

Sports reporter

DENMARK – There were a lot people at the 17th annual Denmark Heritage Days this past weekend and a lot of them were serious about tractors.

One man is serious enough about his tractor he would pay $50 to anyone who can definitively tell him what year it is.

As many old tractors and machines as there were, it could have been the 70th annual.

There were Fergusons, Allis-Chailmers, Farmall, McCormick Farmall, Ford, Case, Massey-Harris, Massey-Ferguson, Hart Parr and John Deere. Were there ever John Deere.

In fact, in the parade, there was a string of 27 consecutive John Deere tractors and they were all owned by Dan and Lori Martin.

There were 120 tractors on the grounds Saturday afternoon and a majority of them in the parade.

To clear up some confusion overheard in random conversations, Massey and Harris & Son merged in 1891. Massey-Harris and Ferguson merged in 1953 to become Massey-Harris-Ferguson, before shortening it to Massey Ferguson in 1958.

The first gasoline powered tractors were built in Illinois, by John Charter combining single cylinder Otto engines with a Rumley Steam engine chasis, in 1889. In 1892, John Froelich built a gasoline-powered tractor in Clayton County, Iowa.

So it is only fitting small town Iowa had the cavalcade of tractors parading down Main Street Saturday afternoon.

As the last tractor was followed by fire engines, people could be seen walking to the road and clapping, a standing ovation for the history brought to life.

There were strong family ties all around and generations of people having fun.

From Amelia Rodeffer, age 5, of Denmark, participating in the pedal tractor pull, to Dave Fraise talking of his Farmall tractor that used to belong to be his parents. They had three farms and still have about 300 acres, half in Lee County, half in Henry County.

"That will never be sold," Fraise said. "It will stay in the family."

Fraise has refurbished the vehicle with the 60-horsepower motor. It is air-cushioned. He has put stairs on it and made it into a handicap accessible conveyance. He proudly pointed out it was the only snub-nosed Farmall on the grounds. He drove it from Lowell.

"I don't understand trailering it," Fraise said. "It's got a high-geared rear end. It’ll go 15-16 miles per hour."

Fraise's 93-year-old mother, Fay P. Fraise, gifted him the tractor two years ago and he spent a year working on it. Through all of that he is still unsure what year it is.

"I know its between a 1958 and a 1962, but if someone could tell me exactly what year it is, I would pay them $50," Fraise said.

Fraise, who is retired from Case, was serious about his tractor and the offer.

"I want to make a wood emblem for it with our name and the year of it for when I take it to events like the Sweet Corn Festival and the Lee County Fair."

If there is a tractor gathering, there seems to always be a gathering of old cars as well.

Fraise's brother, Donny Fraise, had a 1938 Chevrolet that was a tribute to the Armed Forces.

The Chevy Master Deluxe had bullet holes painted on the side of the car and a helmet atop the engine.

In a bit of an odd collaboration, a Mustang pedal car owned by Jacob Rea sat between two Chevrolet Camaros.

An even longer throwback in time was the conveyance piloted by John Stukerjurgen. He commanded Red and Bell, mother and daughter horses that pulled his wagon.

"My brother got me started doing this about 10 years ago and have been coming every year since," Stukerjurgen said.

In the parade he had great niece Clara Pollmeier and great nephew Ashton Kenley riding along.

The heat didn't seem to bother him or his horses as they sat in the sun to recuperate but Joseph and Di-di Jackson fought off the debilitating rays of heat with an umbrella and a stylish hat as son Joseph participated in the tractor pull.

The Silver Steppers entertained for half an hour and ended with a tribute to the Armed Forces. As they danced, there were two future recruits enamored of their abilities. Molly Menke and Wyatt Schmidt took a liking to the Steppers talents and tried to emulate thier moves. The two youngsters couldn't do it.

Roger and Doris Ollinger came from Cedar Rapids to set up their vendor booth. One of the many things for sale were toy tractors. The Ollingers are retired and attend many events like Heritage Days.

"We sell enough to make it worthwhile," Doris Ollinger said from the shade of her canopy-covered booth. "I don't know how people take the heat, but it cools down enough at night."

She would know. The Ollingers sleep in the small trailer that carries their wares. "Packing everything up is harder than unpacking," Doris said. "It is about the same but it takes longer to pack it up because we are tired. Plus everything never gets put back in the same place."

One thing that will be in the same place is Denmark and it is just one year until Heritage Days No. 18.

Sports reporter

The Hawk Eye mobile app brings you the latest local breaking news, updates, and more. Read the Hawk Eye on your mobile device just as it appears in print.

Success! An email has been sent to with a link to confirm list signup.

Error! There was an error processing your request.

Success! Error!