Farmers feeding the local community

Levi Stanley, Writer

On Friday Dec. 4, 2015 the second annual Holiday Tractor Parade took place. The Saint Albans Co-op store created this event in late 2014, for the local farmers who wanted to highlight VT dairy, and that would thank the general public for their support of dairy farmers. The parade took place in Saint Albans, over Main Street and back to the Co-op. Employees of the Co-op sponsored face painting, Santa, and free hot chocolate in Taylor Park for the community.

“The event was put on because local farmers really wanted to do something for the local community and to give back,” Tom Gates said. He is the Cooperative Relations manager and is  in charge of the Co-op’s homepage and any information surrounding the Co-op. “This is why we have requested donations as part of the parade and festivities that will go to the Northwest Family Foods Community food shelf,” Gates said. This food shelf supports many families throughout Franklin and Grand Isle counties.

Over 50 farmers and local businesses participated in the parade. “An event like this takes a lot of collaboration between the Co-op, the local farmers and St. Albans police to put on an event of this nature. Many hours of prep work and promotion are needed ahead of time,” Gates said.

The Co-op wants this parade to become a tradition in Franklin and Grand Isle counties. St. Albans Co-op, with the help of local dairy farmers has been developing this event year to year. “ As long as the farmers and general public are interested and enjoying it we can maybe expect this to become an annual tradition for our area,” Gates said.

Tanner Bechard (‘16) works at Champlain Valley Equipment and they participated in the parade. “We had one tractor in the parade and it took us three days to decorate our one tractor,” Bechard said. Bechard was not one of the drivers in the event, but he enjoyed the parade with his family in Taylor Park.

Many spectators asked Bechard the same question: What do the lights plug into? “The lights are battery powered, or they have portable plug-ins that you can put on your tractor,” said Bechard.

Many members of the community attended this parade. Teri Brunelle works at BFA St. Albans, and she learned about the event from fliers around BFA. “I went with my husband, son and my grand daughter,” said Brunelle. This was her second time attending the parade. This is becoming a tradition for her.”I was very impressed by how nice the tractors were decorated, and how much time the farmers took out of their busy schedules to take part in the parade.  I would definitely go again,” Brunelle said.

These farmers didn’t go “lightly” on the lights they used to decorate the whole tractor. “The number of lights it took to decorate the tractors ranged from 800 to over 5,000 lights. The McDermott’s milk truck had over 14,000 lights on it,” Gates said. Organizers estimated over 100,000 lights were on display at the parade.

The estimate is that over 2,000 people attended the 2015 version of the parade. “We don’t have a great way of tracking how many people really attended the parade but the Co-op gave 1,000 cups of hot chocolate away and along the parade route we estimated more,” Gates said. Farmers focus on producing good food, and they want the general public to know about their efforts. Combining a fun and brightly lit parade with fundraising for those in need is a positive event for St. Albans and Franklin and Grand Isle counties.