Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Tractors, bikes & covered wagons June 25, 2014

TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Or so they say.

Glancing out the cafe's front window, I noticed the tractorcade rolling into new Richland.

Glancing out the front window of the Red Leaf Cafe, I noticed the tractorcade rolling into New Richland.

Around noon on Saturday, just as my Philly steak sandwich, fries and coleslaw arrived at my table in the Red Leaf Cafe, I glanced out the street-side window to see tractors rolling into New Richland.

The tractors kept coming, not all under their own power.

The tractors kept coming, not all under their own power.

The tractorcade, which began three hours earlier 27 miles away at Farmamerica near Waseca, was parading into this southern Minnesota town. And I didn’t want to miss grabbing some quick shots of the tractor enthusiasts and their John Deere, Ford, International, Farmall and other tractors.

Driving through downtown New Richland.

Driving through downtown New Richland.

So I darted outside, fired off some frames and then headed back inside to eat.

One of the 20 or so old-time tractor enthusiasts.

One of the 20 or so old-time tractor enthusiasts.

Shortly thereafter, all those tractorcade participants filed into the restaurant. Timing is everything.

The BBQed rib special.

The BBQed rib special.

Regular diner Robert arrived soon afterward, securing the single vacant table next to the one occupied by my husband and me. But this local senior didn’t have to wait for his food. The crew at the Red Leaf Cafe knows that every Friday, Robert eats the fried fish. On Saturday he has the BBQ rib special. And on Sunday he wants chicken fried steak.

You have to love it—this small town life.

Some of the tractorcade diners.

Some of the tractorcade diners.

While the tractor collectors in their worn blue jeans, tractor t-shirts and tractor caps waited to order, Randy and I finished our meals, just as a parade of motorcycles rumbled into town.

Raising monies for those in the military.

Raising monies for those in the military and their families.

Two hundred of them, by one participant’s estimate, riding on a 100-mile Freedom Ride to raise monies for Minnesota’s active duty military families. They’ve raised $100,000 in seven years.

Bikes lined New Richland's downtown street.

Bikes lined New Richland’s downtown street.

Signs of support and service.

Signs of support and service.

One of the hundreds of bikers.

One of the hundreds of bikers.

Taking a break on the 100-mile ride.

Taking a break on the 100-mile ride.

Parking along three blocks of Broadway, the bikers, in their worn jeans and leather vests and Freedom Ride and other t-shirts, and with tattoos inked onto many arms, ambled toward a corner bar for beverages, then hung outside in the glorious sunshine of a hot and humid afternoon.

You have to love it—this slice of rural Americana, this appreciation for those who serve our country.

The Red Leaf Cafe in the heart of downtown offered an ideal vantage point to view the tractors and bikes.

The Red Leaf Cafe in the heart of downtown offered an ideal vantage point to view the tractors and bikes.

In that moment, that afternoon, New Richland seemed the place to be with old tractors to examine and motorcycles to admire.

Checking out the parked tractors.

Checking out the parked tractors.

We lingered and looked. And then, when a whistle shrilled marking time for the bikers to ready for departure, we hurried to our van, wanting to get ahead of the pack heading north, also our direction of departure.

Timing is everything.

A Wagon Train participant readies to leave Otisco.

A Wagon Train participant readies to leave Otisco.

The drive to Waseca should have been uneventful. But then, to the west, I spotted covered wagons lined up in Otisco as part of the annual Friendship Wagon Train fundraiser for Camp Winnebago. We detoured off the highway, drove through the train and then turned around. A quick look with no time to dally.

Waiting to leave Otisco.

Waiting to leave Otisco.

You have to love it—this gathering of horse lovers raising monies for a camp that serves children and adults with special needs.

We did not expect any of this as we set out on our Saturday afternoon drive. But that’s the joy of an unplanned day. The surprise of it all, the timing, the ability to simply enjoy whatever unfolds.

PLEASE CHECK BACK for more posts from New Richland.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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19 Responses to “Tractors, bikes & covered wagons”

  1. hotlyspiced Says:

    What an event! Those tractors are so clean! I’m so glad they raise money for such a worthy cause. Looks like the cafe serves up ample quantities of delicious fare – I’d love to try those ribs! xx

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    We missed the huge tractor event that was in Mason City last weekend. There were tons!!!!!You had a lot of great things to see at this event!!!!

  3. What a day for transportation! I’d love to have seen the tractor parade. The motorcycles, not so much — so noisy.

  4. Dan Traun Says:

    A great slice of small-town life. Love it – all of it. Those ribs look plenty good too. It’s 8:51 a.m. and now I am hungry already 🙂

  5. You are my favorite site. Brings back memories. Love it as always, especially the veterans.

  6. How cool that all this was going on. You’re right – timing is everything….or almost. There’s also the fact that you have to be someone who takes a leap and embraces the chance events that pass in front of you. That might be the best part!

  7. Love the Unexpected 🙂 Recently seen a wagon train in South Lake Tahoe and a few months back a VW Bug Motorcade. Happy Hump Day!

  8. Marilyn Says:

    I’ve just been involved in a local charity fundraiser. I could have used a tractor to great advantage (or a bike, or a horse). Or maybe a bikie vest would be more my style! I am so envious of your eventful trip and ribs.


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