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Annual tractor parade rolls on despite snow

By Janet Kubat Willette
jkubat@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 04/25/2013 7:06 PM

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RANDOLPH, Minn. – Neither snow nor cold could stall the 11th annual Randolph FFA Tractor Parade.

Eighty-one tractors, ranging from mid-1930s models on up to a new 2013, drove through downtown Randolph and past Randolph school on April 10. Schoolchildren dressed in winter gear sat on blue tarps dotting the school lawn. Many were covered in quilts and blankets. FFA adviser Ed Terry brought the tarps for the occasion.

"We want tractors, we want tractors," the preschoolers chanted while they waited for the parade to begin.

Soon, the fire truck drove by, leading the tractor parade down the street and past the school.

Snow and salt kept some tractors and their drivers home, but others weren't deterred. Some opted to leave their tractors at home and instead came to watch.

It was the first time for snow at the annual parade, which is a kickoff for the planting season and a celebration of FFA, said Carol Schrader, of Nerstrand, who has driven in the parade for many years.

"It's always been fun," said Schrader, who drove a 1971 John Deere 4020 diesel. Her husband, Keith, drove a 4620 diesel. The tractors sat overnight in the school parking lot, leaving Carol to brush snow and a frozen slush mix from the tractor seat and dash before the parade.

Grayden Moorhouse drove his 1981 Ford 4600 series tractor in the parade. Moorhouse, who lives three miles out of town, normally drives a Minneapolis Moline in the parade, but opted for the Ford this year because it has a cab. He added the cab himself, taking it off a New Idea combine and putting it on his Ford tractor. He said he has missed a couple parades, but he tries to make it each year.

Dale Malecha, of Northfield, drove the tractor with the greatest horsepower. The 1978 Big Bud has 550 horsepower and it was among the world's biggest tractors at one point. Malecha uses the tractor every spring and fall for tillage, pulling a 60 foot digger.

It's the fourth year he's been in the parade, coming at the request of his niece Michelle's children, who attend school in Randolph.

It took 45 minutes to drive to the school from his farm. The gravel roads were snow covered, but fine; the tar roads were thawing and left his windows splashed with road grit.

Malecha, a grandfather of eight, comes to the parade for the children. He enjoys seeing their excited waves as he drives past the school.

"I enjoy kids," he said. "I do it for them."

The coolest thing about the parade is "seeing all the tractors drive down Main Street," said Lindsey Johnson, 17, of Northfield. Johnson attends FFA classes at Randolph and drove a John Deere B owned by the Randolph FFA. She kept warm in her boots and snow pants. Seven tractors owned by the Randolph FFA were in the parade.

Johnson said it's rare that an FFA can host a tractor parade. FFA members from other chapters have driven in their parade in the past, and marveled at the size of their parade and the support they receive.

Randolph High School Principal Ben Fisher said it's the only high school tractor parade that he's aware of. It gives students who work on tractors in farm machinery class a chance to showcase their work. It also attracts tractors from several area communities.

"The community comes together" for the parade, Fisher said.