Yoder Heritage Day brought buggy races, a parade, cinnamon rolls and lots of fun
Carrie Gingerich grew up in Yoder. Each year, she would attend Yoder Heritage Day with her family. Now a mother and living in Partridge, she is excited to introduce 2-year-old Kendall to the celebration of her hometown’s heritage.
“There’s a lot of fun stuff to do here,” Gingerich said. “I like the small town feel of it.”
Gingerich also wanted to introduce her husband, who grew up in Illinois, to her city’s special event, which brought in more than 10,000 people on Saturday. Because the family of three is Amish and must maintain certain customs, they could only drive their horse and buggy or their big red tractor to Yoder.
“We choose the tractor,” Gingerich said. “I said this is the morning there will be a row of tractors driving down the highway.”
The day was filled with comradery and old customs, including a parade that featured buggies and tractors, buggy races and lots of homemade apple pies and cinnamon rolls.
Bob and Carole Brazil of Abilene, who were celebrating their second anniversary even though they are in their 70s, attended the event for the first time.
“We thought it would be a wonderful celebration,” Bob Brazil said.
The Brazils grew up together, marrying each other’s good friend. A few years ago, when both of their spouses died, they thought it was only natural to stay connected. They already knew each other’s children and grandchildren.
For Toxey Yoder, 8, who lives in nearby South Hutchinson, coming to the fair is always a part of his routine. He usually gets to drive his grandpa’s tractor in the parade, but this year he stood by and watched.
“I really like watching the tractors,” he said.
For Darrell Willinger, a farmer from Stafford County, watching the horse-drawn tractor pull was extra special. Growing up, his grandfather always told him about how he would pull the plow with horses. Willinger had never witnessed this before.
“I’ve listened to his stories, but I’ve never seen them plow before,” Willinger said.
Both he and his wife, Lory, were also excited to watch the buggy races. Six contestants drove a buggy, keeping the brown and bay Standardbreds from galloping.
“If they gallop, they are disqualified,” said David Knepp, who was one of the judges who timed the event. “It’s a trotting or a pacing race.”
The Willingers enjoyed their first time at Yoder Heritage Day. They said next time they will bring their 4-year-old granddaughter, Lacey.
“This is more fun than watching drag races,” Willinger said.
Townspeople – many of whom wore bonnets, straw hats and simple clothes, along with those from away, including quite a few from throughout Kansas – said they enjoyed the hospitality and the family-friendly environment.
“I love this culture; I love the Amish people,” said Wendy McPhillips of El Dorado. “They love their families. They love their children. They have an understanding that you can focus on what’s important.”
Ryan Caffrey of Haven, who has served as an announcer at the parade for almost two decades, said the heritage is rich.
“The openness and the kindness of the people here is probably not rivaled anywhere,” he said. “It’s a wonderful event.”