NEW BETHLEHEM — Postponed since late May, the Leatherwood Church’s Tractor Sunday celebration took shape on Aug. 30 in the pastoral setting of Porter Township, near New Bethlehem, in southern Clarion County.
The annual event had a good turnout, better than organizers expected under COVID-19 social distancing requirements.
Janet Gourley, one of the Tractor Sunday perennial organizers and workers said, “We were really surprised by the turnout this year. I think that everybody was looking forward to it more than usual. And you could not ask for better weather.”
An early report prior to the much-loved festival said that inflatable slides and bounce houses were probably not going to make an appearance this year. That decision was overturned, and social distancing measures appeared to be observed faithfully by the children enjoying the giant toys.
Elsewhere, smaller children pedaled tot-size tractors in a separate area.
New Bethlehem resident, Karen Sturgeon, watched her grandson operate one of the pint-size machines.
“We were all looking forward to coming this year and we are really happy they had it after all,” she said. “My grandson was really excited about it.”
Exhibitors who fell in the older at-risk group sat apart from the main display areas. Friends and family walked from tractor to automobile, chatting with car and tractor owners at the recommended distance of six feet.
Sonny Shaffer, a South Bethlehem resident, posed beside a classic 1942 Farmall tractor he was given in appreciation for keeping a cancer victim’s property mowed a few years ago.
“The man was pretty sick and could not do it himself anymore,” Shaffer said. “I was just helping him out, and he and his wife decided to give me the tractor one day.”
Several yards away, a phalanx of about 10 John Deere tractors was lined up, admirers strolling through the grouping while neighbors traded jabs and jokes.
David Fleming and Tom Allison were among the Deere enthusiasts who posed beside their machines. Both men and a couple family members said that summer would not be summer without Tractor Sunday.
As the event wound down at about 3 p.m., two tractor-trailer drivers started up their engines and prepared to move their highly polished cabs from the church grounds. If any vehicle or farm implement could be shown, it was there last Sunday.
While social distancing was not possible in the picnic pavilions in the stage area, a long list of raffle winners was read off after the musical entertainment was over.
Proceeds from the event’s raffle drawing and entry fees benefit a camp for at-risk youth in Kentucky.