NEW BETHLEHEM – About 500 area residents and visitors braved heat, humidity and the threat of thunderstorms last Sunday to enjoy the Leatherwood Church’s 11th annual Tractor Sunday celebration in Porter Township, near New Bethlehem.

Held on the church grounds, the event featured picnic-style food, live entertainment, children’s games and tractors large and small.

The Rev. Doug Henry, pastor of the nondenominational church, was pleased by the attendance figures.

“I thought that the weather might keep people away, but this is a normal turnout for us,” he said.

Proceeds from Tractor Sunday will send several children and youths to Circle C Ranch in Delevan, N.Y., celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m.,Tractor Sunday commenced with a morning worship service, followed by traditional church-picnic foods and activities. It was an all-American affair.

Prominently displayed among a cluster of lawn tractors was an American flag. Members of the Gourley family, Porter Township residents, took turns manning the gas grills in the sweltering heat, dispensing humor along with the hot dogs.

Prize giveaways took place throughout the day, but the emphasis was on more active pursuits.

Taking the stage were local musicians Son of Leroy and Hope Spence, who entertained attendees seeking shelter from the blazing sun in picnic pavilions and beneath trees. Folding chairs were everywhere, while more than a few families spread blankets under the trees dotting the grounds.

Fred and Sandy Anderson, New Bethlehem, said that this was the second year they have attended Tractor Sunday.

“We like to come because it is relaxing and fun, a way to socialize with people we do not often have a chance to see,” Sandy Anderson said.

“Everybody who is anybody is here today,” said Fred Anderson, more commonly known as Fleebus the Clown, his alter ego. His clown shoes were at home, but not his sense of fun.

While most members of the crowd were area residents, John and Ruth King drove to Porter Township from Indiana, Pa. John King grew up near Widnoon and makes the trip every year to stay in touch with friends and family who live in New Bethlehem and the surrounding area.

Henry said that it takes more than 60 volunteers to make Tractor Sunday happen every year, as well as a number of area businesses who sponsor the event. Six area businesses contributed goods and services this year, including Hetrick’s Farm Supply, Veronesi’s Gunworks, Elder Ag and Turf Equipment, Dunlap Lawn and Garden, Tractor Supply and Hoss’s Little Outhouses.

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