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Covered Bridge Festival Starts with a Tour of Tractors in Madison County

WINTERSET, Iowa  --  The Covered Bridge Festival got a start on Friday with the annual Tractor Ride.

Sixty-six riders are touring the bridges on gravel roads around the county. On Friday, the group stopped at Roseman Bridge, Hogsback Bridge, and Cedar Bridge.

“My dad started it 16 years ago in conjunction with the covered bridge festival,” said event organizer Curtis Saveraid. “He passed away in 2011, our family has kept it going since.”

Saveraid said the Winterset tractor ride was inspired by the late Mark Pearson of WHO Radio, who resided in Madison County. He is credited as one of the founders of the original tractor ride at WHO.

“Sometimes it gets a little chaotic,” said Savaraid. “We get some tractors lost like we did today, and they we get a little bit behind, but we got them all rounded back up and headed in the right direction."

One of the riders is 80-year-old Raymond Vais, from Exira. He has installed a bike wheel on his  1940s Oliver Row Crop 60. He installed it so he could measure miles traveled and speed. That’s something most tractors don’t do.

“This year, by tonight, I’ll have 3,300 miles,” said Vais. “I’ve been across the state of Iowa both directions, I've been in all six states that join Iowa.”

Vais said he rode back and forth across Iowa, because “no one would go with me.” He added that he has also spent the night on a platform on the back of his tractor when he couldn’t find a motel.

The ride will continue on Saturday, and the tractors will be in the big parade on Sunday.