The 18th annual Randolph FFA tractor parade, Minnesota’s largest tractor parade, pays tribute to the start of the crop growing season each year. This year’s parade is scheduled for April 9.
“Our annual tractor parade is to kick off the fieldwork for farmers each year,” said Liz Reinardy, Randolph FFA reporter and high school senior. “It’s mainly just an event where our FFA and community members can all come together, see each other, and just support the FFA.”
The 2020 parade was cancelled because of the COVID-19 Stay Safe MN Plan. This year, organizers moved the starting location from the school parking lot to the Randolph FFA Alumni Tractor Pull site, located at Tom Otte’s and adjacent to River Country Cooperative.
With expectations for more than 100 tractors, the new site allows for social distancing. It’s also the location of the Randolph FFA Alumni and Supporters Association annual Truck and Tractor Pull held in August.
“Both Mr. Otte and River Country Co-op are big supporters of the FFA, so that’s where we’ll start and we’re going to do a typical parade route,” Reinardy said.
Led by Randolph-Hampton Fire District firetrucks, this year’s parade is dedicated to Carter Nicolai, who passed away one year ago at 10 years of age. He lost his life in an ATV accident, and the students wanted to use the parade as a memorial to him. Carter was known throughout Randolph because he was very sick when he was 4 years old. He required a bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy and other treatments, and ultimately overcame aplastic anemia.
Carter also loved tractors and farming.
“The parade was the highlight of the whole year for him, so this year, we are going to be pulling a tractor on a trailer with posters,” Reinardy said.
The parade lasts 1-2 hours in sunshine or rain or snow. All types of tractors are included in the parade – from antiques to brand new models.
Community members, farmers and FFA alumni and supporters drive tractors. Under the direction of ag instructor Ed Terry and assistant advisor Leah Addington, Randolph has 120 members in its FFA chapter.
Many of the students find tractors to drive or own a tractor themselves. The FFA chapter also owns 12 tractors that students can drive in the parade.
The chapter’s tractors are worked on in the Farm Power course offered at Randolph. Other ag courses include: Small Engines, Forestry Conservation, Plant and Soil Science, Animal Science and Agriculture in America, which is Reinardy’s favorite course.
In Agriculture in America, students learn about farming and agriculture. They also study the corn and soybean markets, because this class decides how to market the FFA chapter’s crops produced each year.
A few years back, the late Jim Tracy donated 40 acres to the Randolph FFA to farm. The FFA also has another 8.5-acre test plot near the school.
Randolph FFA owns a planter and a tractor planter. The chapter also helps harvest the crop and makes all of the decisions regarding crop production.
FFA offers opportunities
This is the second year that Reinardy has been a Raymond FFA Chapter officer. She first got involved in FFA as a freshman, while taking distance learning ag classes on Monday nights. She decided to take every possible ag course over her four years in high school.
“I love FFA and I volunteer for every opportunity,” she said. Next year, she plans to attend Dakota County Technical College for a two-year-degree in Electrical Construction and Maintenance. Eventually, she’d like to work in the local area as an electrician.
Her tractor is a John Deere B, which was originally purchased by her grandpa. Reinardy’s dad and her uncle helped her restore the tractor, and now she proudly drives it in parades.
She has every intention of driving it in the 2021 Randolph FFA Parade, rain or shine or snow – but everyone’s hoping there won’t be snow.