THE GREAT ESCAPE

AMERICANS ARE FLEEING SUBURBIA FOR SMALL TOWNS. DO THEIR NEW LIVES EQUAL THEIR DREAMS?

The old tractors just keep coming around the corner of Mulberry and Main in downtown Wilmington, Ohio, a sputtering battalion of Oliver Super 55s, McCormick Farmalls and Minneapolis Molines--the stars of the Clinton County Corn Festival's 1997 parade. Families line the sidewalks, children wave to the farmers as they pass, but after 20 minutes Kathy Wiley has seen enough. A sylphlike executive secretary at Warner Bros. in Burbank, Calif., Wiley, 31, switches off her videocamera and wrinkles her nose at her husband Jim, who is busy snapping photos.

"More tractors," Kathy says.

"Yeah!" says Jim, 38, a barrel-chested film-distribution manager...

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