After passing through Preston on Highway 64, a tree to the left stands out from the rest.
If you make the left turn onto the gravel road that is 446th Avenue, you’re greeted with a surreal sight. Hanging from the first tree on the left is a plethora of colored jump ropes. Their strings sway from branches midway down the trunk and move with the wind.
It’s something straight out of a novel, but it’s something that Preston natives Kelsey Yaddof and Hannah Bormann felt was important.
The two, who are both studying nursing at their respective colleges out of town, found inspiration in the infamous Hula Hoop Tree outside of Anamosa. The tree was famed as an oddity nestled in the town of Amber, but was recently cut down by the landowner after five years of existing.
The two girls from Preston had visited the tree just a week or so before it was removed from the property.
“It was a spur of the moment decision,” Yaddof said. “We’re super glad we went.”
They drove an hour to see it. Even though it was dark when they got to the tree, they were inspired by the uniqueness it offered and the idea that when they threw their hula hoops, they were adding to a collection made by people from all around the state.
“We went there and we thought it was so cool just throwing the hula hoops up,” Yaddof said. “We thought what concept can we bring to Preston that has the same idea. We wanted to add our own unique twist to it.”
The Hula Hoop Tree was cut down by the landowners over safety concerns. It was along a major road, and many had mentioned the pedestrian danger for visitors outside of their cars.
“It was unique and cool when we went,” Bormann said. “We wanted something that brings people to Preston.”
When Yaddof and Bormann decided to make their own tree, they worked to find a spot off of busy roads.
They got permission from the land owner outside of Preston for the location of the new tree and started by throwing a handful of ropes up themselves.
“We thought about shoes, frisbees, pinwheels, kites,” Yaddof said. “We landed on jump ropes.”
Now, dozens hang from the branches.
“Jump ropes are usually bright and neon,” Bormann said. “A lot of the jump ropes are bright and you can see them from the road.”
Yaddof posted on Facebook about the new attraction just a few days after the Hula Hoop Tree was cut. She did receive some unexpected backlash about the Preston version being a living tree, but the girls weren’t bothered. They know that their efforts are not harming the tree in any way.
“My comment was that it was just like putting Christmas lights on the tree,” Bormann said. “It’s not injuring the tree, it’s not inhibiting it’s growth. They’re super light.”
“We respect that not everyone will support it and that’s fine,” Yaddof said. “That happens with everything you do. We respect other people’s opinions 100 percent.”
Preston is a town of just about 1,000 people and surrounded by farmland. In addition to adding to the Hula Hoop Tree legacy, the girls felt it was important to add the attraction to their own hometown. They hope it spurs visitors and possibly helps attract people to local spots like Geno’s Pizza or the Downtown Pub.
“We wanted something unique and to bring it to our town,” Yadoff said.
“It’s right outside of town, it’s easy to find,” Bormann said. “You can see it from the road but it’s far enough from the road to be safe.”
Plenty have added their ropes already, and they’re hoping it just keeps growing. It’s not a traditional attraction by any means, but one that they’re hoping the community can take pride in down the road.
“I think with summer coming up and quarantine ending it will bring more people out,” Yaddof said. “We’re hoping that happens.”