SWEDESBURG – Swedesburg Lutheran Church hosted its annual community hayride Sunday afternoon, Oct. 6, for community residents, church members and special guests.
“This is our eighth hayride,” said the Rev. Mark Youngquist, pastor of the church, explaining he could remember the start year because it was his first year as pastor at the church: 2012.
“It started with the idea of community,” said Youngquist. “In Swedesburg, everyone used to know each other, but it has become a commuter community. The idea was to bring people back together.”
And the yearly celebration has done just that.
“People come just to talk and visit, and that’s just what we were hoping for,” said Youngquist.
With cooperating weather this year, the celebration was held outside on the church property. Many recalled that it rained during last year’s event, and everyone ended up playing games indoors.
“It was so cold, and some of the international students from Iowa Wesleyan University weren’t dressed for the weather, so we were running around finding what we could for them to wear,” recalled Stacy Speidel, a member of the evangelism committee, which helps plan the event.
But this year, the weather cooperated and activities included lawn games, two covered wagon rides, with one drawn by mules and the other drawn by horses, a 1-mile hayrack ride pulled by an antique tractor, another 4-mile, 30-minute hayrack ride pulled by a pickup truck, and of course, a fire for roasting hot dogs and roasting marshmallows for s’mores.
“It’s nice to have all the different ages of people here,” said Peggy Grothe, a member of the evangelism committee. “We have a 1-year-old to people in their 90s. It amazes me that people come even if they’re not riding the hayride. There are a lot of people here this year; most are from the church, but there are some from the community, and we really want people to come from all over to have fellowship and enjoy having a rural outlook on things.”
Special guests were the international students from Iowa Wesleyan University in Mt. Pleasant.
“Students have asked ‘do you do this all the time; is this an Iowa thing?’” said Youngquist. “We really enjoying sharing our traditions with them and helping them learn about us.”
IWC international student Olius Clervil explained he has attended school in Mt. Pleasant before, so even though he is from Haiti, where the average daily temperature almost always falls between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, he knows a little bit about what to expect from the weather in Iowa.
Youngquist and Grothe said plans are to continue Swedesburg Lutheran Church’s hayride tradition next year.
“As long as people want to come ...” said Youngquist.