It is not every day that you can see eight vintage tractors slowly gliding in a row down a main road in an American city. This past weekend, however, residents of Russell, Illinois got to see just that when a parade of tractors, most of them John Deere models, chugged along the town's roads.
The procession was not just a joy ride: the parade raises money for A Safe Place, a local charity that helps battered women. Bill Tessin of Zion, Illinois told the Lake County News-Sun that in the area, "everyone enjoys participating" in the event, stating that they "are getting participants from all different parts of the country." This is a far cry from 20 years ago when the annual tradition first started and there were only two participants, Steve and Danny Merkling, who also happened to be its creators.
Looking back on the event's beginnings, the Merkling brothers assert that it started off as a joke that turned into something much more meaningful. The brothers are hardworking, charitable and gregarious - all common attributes of farmers. They estimate that in recent years, participation has increased by 30 percent. Each year, they say, they donate roughly $500 to the shelter, declaring that every bit of money helps. This year they are also raising money to send care packages to troops stationed abroad.
The tradition will continue for years to come as area residents look forward to it every year. This year, one of the oldest tractors in the parade belonged to Danny. His vintage 1945 Model A John Deere is a prized possession.