- Associated Press - Thursday, June 12, 2014

ROCHESTER, Ind. (AP) - Lily Pearl’s Square Dancing Tractors has been finding success performing do-si-dos and swing-your-partner routines for fairs and other events for about the last three years.

Their dance floors are fields and arenas across the region, where they maneuver their fleet of red Farmall International Harvester tractors in synchronized routines for the crowds that come out to see them.

Skeeter Daugherty, leader of the group, told the Pharos-Tribune (https://bit.ly/1hR4sgP ) their name pays homage to his wife’s late grandmother, who “got a kick out of watching” him and his friends at Fulton County Historical Power Association shows.

There are about 15 to 16 in the group, Daugherty said, adding that it takes nine to perform in a show - eight tractor operators and a caller to announce the move changes. Because women have yet to join, four guys amuse the audience by adopting attire and wigs to take on the appearance of women for each show.

Much of it came to be because of the curiosity and creativity of 10-year-old Dryden Vance, a member of the Fulton County Historical Power Association whom Daugherty calls the group’s choreographer. Three years ago, when the group was just starting, Dryden had struck up a friendship with the late Dick Lewis, a friend of his grandparents. When Lewis passed away, his children gave a video featuring tractor square dancing to Dryden, who showed it to his peers in the power association.

“I decided to ask a few of the guys there if they’d try it,” Dryden said. “After they tried it and practiced, we got a whole group of guys together and said, ‘Why don’t we just try this at our local power show? If people like it, maybe we should go public.’”

They did, and they’ve been gaining popularity ever since. The group is performing in more than 25 events this summer, including the Fulton County Historical Power Show, Fulton County Fair, Cass County Fair and Indiana State Fair.

Dryden’s grandfather, Morris Murphy, performs in the shows, while his mother, Jana Vance, is the group’s caller.

He continues to get ideas for routines from videos, these days mostly from YouTube. Dryden and the rest of the group get together regularly to watch them, hash out ideas and map out their sequences with toy tractors on a table top before heading out to their machines.

Daugherty said he and the rest of the performers start rehearsals at low speeds and gradually move up.

“It takes weeks to get it right,” Daugherty said, adding that routines can last from 30 to 40 minutes. “Crashes do happen.”

When the group started out, all of the performers drove different brands of tractors, with differing gear ratios that made it difficult for them to synchronize their maneuvers.

“It’s all about timing and speed,” Daugherty said.

Eventually, they were all able to get on the same page with a fleet of Farmall International Harvester tractors, however.

“It seemed to come together when we did that,” Daugherty said.

The success has been a surprise, he added.

“We started just for fun,” he said. “We had no idea it was going to be this big.”

And they want to go even bigger. Daugherty said the group’s next goal is to carry out a routine featuring 16 tractors and double the difficulty with two lines of eight tractors moving in a revolving X pattern. The crew is currently three drivers short to make an attempt, however.

Lily Pearl’s Square Dancing Tractors can be reached by calling 574-835-5116. They are also online on Facebook and lilypearldancers.wix.com/dancing-tractors.


Information from: Pharos-Tribune, https://www.pharostribune.com

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