As with many other past years, we again attended this year’s Callicoon Tractor Parade down the main street of the attractive hamlet.
While to some, this event seems largely unchanged from year-to-year. But the reality is that it’s grown very popular and has attracted additional tractor entrants.
But another, more subtle transformation of the Callicoon Tractor Parade has taken place over the years.
Our first encounter with the Tractor Parade was probably in 2005. The Parade had a humorous, tongue-in-cheek way about it.
I remember the announcer would make funny quips as he identified each entrant. He might poke fun of the aged pieces of equipment being driven, while getting in a few chuckles at the expense of the equally aged individuals doing the driving. The emcee donned a tall, Mad Hatter-like green chapeau -making him appear more a clown than an announcer.
Even the tractor drivers poked fun at the proceedings, sometimes displaying crudely written signs attending to his, and his farm vehicle’s broken-down condition.
No one–not the drivers nor the spectators seemed to mind. The whole parade was all in good natured jest.
But over the years the emphasis of subsequent parades changed.
The Tractor Parade has since become more dignified and more telling of the plight of Sullivan County farmers.
Yes, there were floats pulled by tractors bearing cute kiddies and a Miss Sullivan County or Little Miss Cow-Lover along the way.
But these days, a closer look reveals the craggy and sinewy faces of not just tractor drivers, but the farmers too.
Farming in Sullivan County was always a hard life-our local farmers have always devoted their lives to squeezing crops from rocky soil, or gathering eggs, or milking cows. And it didn’t matter if the day was hot, cold, wet, or dusty. The farmer’s work always had to be done, in sickness and in health.
All this was accomplished in order to bring their products to market, and probably get compensated for less than half of what they were worth, so that the local grocery chain could also make a buck-and so that homeowners could enjoy fresh meat and veggies for dinner.
This year, instead of my seeing lots to laugh about, I saw both the pain and pride of these sturdy types as they proudly drove their noisy, smelly, and smoky tractors through the tiny main street of Callicoon.
And who could know for sure if their children were along for the long haul for the following years to adulthood, or if today they were just along for the ride.
No, I didn’t feel somber-the day was much too beautiful for that.
But with today’s new emphasis on the mega farming business and technology, the higher costs and taxes in running a family farm, and the allure for the farmer’s children for being in an office instead of the great outdoors, will the future allow for our local Sullivan County farmers to exist?
And will the Tractor Parade, should it remain, eventually become just a curious artifact of bygone days?