SPENCER, Iowa -- Marleen Pearson was all smiles as the popular Clay County Fair Antique Tractor Ride came to a close under sunny skies and a light breeze Tuesday morning. Pearson had just waved to dozens of folks, perhaps hundreds, who lined the route as it snaked its way north then west then south then east through the fairgrounds.
Pearson, of Everly, Iowa, rode her 1946 Ford N. It's not the model or year that's significant; it's the color.
"Originally, it was grayish," she said. "When we bought it, the tractor was pink."
It stayed that color, a way for Pearson to chug along while offering her bright salute, a sign of support to friends and extended family members who have fought the ravages of cancer. Pink is known as the color for breast cancer survivors.
"None of my immediate family has had cancer, but I wanted a little pink tractor to support those who have had cancer," Pearson said. "I've had several friends fight different kinds of cancer."
Pearson, who joined her husband, the late Don Pearson, for decades on their farm northeast of Everly, told family members a few years ago that she was in the market for a restored tractor, a pink one, in fact. Grandson Brandon Steuben, who resided in the Twin Cities, saw one in Minnesota and called his grandmother. She made the arrangements and bought the unit and had it transported south to Iowa.
"I've been driving in the Clay County Antique Tractor Parade for six years, I think," she said. "I just love doing it."
On Tuesday, she was joined by son, Todd Pearson, who made the trip from his residence in Dallas, Texas, to take in a day at the "World's Largest County Fair." Todd Pearson joined his mother in the parade. He drove a 1976 International 1066.
"I get back to the fair sporadically," he said. "I showed cattle here when I was growing up."
Marleen Pearson, who remains thrilled that her 1946 Ford runs beautifully, pointed toward another pink unit that joined 174 tractors in the display area on the northern edge of the fairgrounds. That John Deere 3010 is sponsored by Matt and Anne Hagedorn Excavating of Royal, Iowa, and bears a small message that says "Riding for Sue Logan."
The Hagedorn John Deere has "Breast Cancer Awareness" lettering and the slogan "Fight Like A Girl" with boxing gloves and the breast cancer awareness ribbon.
"I rode in tractor rides with my husband for years, but never had my own tractor," said Anne Hagedorn during an interview while attending the fair on Thursday. "I was always the support crew."
One day in the summer of 2011, Anne Hagedorn asked Matt if she could have a tractor to ride and paint it pink. He declined. Later that same day, the couple rode home from a tractor ride and Anne received a message from one of her best friends, Sue Logan, of Primghar, Iowa.
"So, we're riding home and Sue sends me a message and tells me she's been diagnosed with cancer," Anne said. "I told Matt and he said, 'Let's get you a pink tractor.'"
Anne Hagedorn has ridden her pink John Deere in rides throughout Northwest Iowa since September 2012. She's participated in the Clay County Fair Antique Tractor Ride in the past and has also ridden in events in Wisconsin.
Sue Logan, she said, was taken aback -- in a good way -- by the tribute when she saw it a decade or so ago. More importantly, her friend said, she battled ("Fought Like a Girl") and is doing fine these days.
"We've been friends for 18 years," Anne Hagedorn concluded. "One of my twin daughters is named for her."