Driving a tractor to school: A tradition for seniors in Somerset County on the last days of classes
Somerset Area Jr.-Sr. High School students, mostly seniors, drove their tractors from all different directions on their way to class Thursday morning.
Driving tractors to school on one of the last days before graduation just sort of happened several years ago when one or two of the students randomly brought them to school, said Kelby Hay, physical education teacher, assistant football coach and planner of the seniors' parade of tractors.
"About six or seven years ago I said to the kids, let's do it right," he said.
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The parade of tractors is now considered by many to be a tradition.
Like the teenagers, the tractors are hard working on the farms. For the Thursday morning parade, most tractors are driven right off the trailer, unhooked and hosed down to look spiffy.
Last year, several tractors went home from the school's parking lot around lunchtime, before the kids who drove them left the school, because the tractors were needed on the farm. The students found another way home.
"I just want for the kids to have a good, safe day," Hay said. His grandfather owned a farm near Berlin and his parents live there now. He admits he knows something about driving a tractor. He enjoys engaging with the kids and every year he has two of them oversee the event.
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For the 2023 graduates, the leaders are Luke Housley, of Friedens, and Tyler Zimmerman, of Somerset. They were all smiles at the school's parking lot at the end of the journey that included about 25 tractors and even more students.
"It is a great tradition to keep going," Housley said. "This year we had record numbers. It is really great."
Zimmerman said the event is something everyone enjoys.
"It is a day for us to do something fun at the end of the year. We get smiles from everyone we pass," he said.
The tractors were driven first to the Summit Diner in Somerset for breakfast. The Summit Diner opened an hour early to accommodate them. From there, they drove their equipment up North Center Avenue onto West Main Street to Franklin Avenue, which led them to the school's parking lot. Along the way, small groups of watchers gathered at the intersections, laughing, waving and taking pictures. A larger group of fans did the same as the parade passed the field house and down the street to the parking lot, where the parade ended. Some of the observers were wrapped in blankets for the chilly morning. It was a festive and energized atmosphere along the route.
"To me it is a fabulous event, because it shows the importance of agriculture," said Don Shinn, who came to the event to support all the kids, and specifically his two grandchildren driving in the parade. "It gives the kids an opportunity to show off what they like about agriculture."
His granddaughter, Carly Richard, a senior and the county FFA president, smiled at her grandfather and then said, "I have to get to school" as she grabbed her school materials.
Thursday was also awards day for seniors in the Somerset Area School District.
Shinn and his daughter, Donna Richard, watched as Donna's children, Carly and Wesley, an eighth-grader, took off, and then said, "We all know that kids love tractors."
The tractors ran the gamut from collector models to brand-new equipment to everything in between. What they all had in common was a teenager driving them, proud to be part of rural Somerset County's farming heritage.
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Hay admitted it is a little nerve-wracking with the students driving heavy equipment on the town's streets. He followed the parade of about 25 tractors driving a tractor from West Central Equipment.
"I wanted to make sure none of the kids were left in the dust, like with a stalled tractor," he said.
"It is just for the kids to have a good day," Hay said.
This article originally appeared on The Daily American: Riding a tractor to school: A tradition in rural Somerset County