A Youthful Voice...The Advocate Youth Page Schyler Angell

By SCHYLER ANGELL
Associate Editor,
Advocate Youth Page

This Thanksgiving I took a trip to DeSmet, South Dakota to see my oldest sister Sierra and her family of five. I had a really nice trip and enjoyed Thanksgiving day. Delicious food, nice family time and a few days off of school all make Thanksgiving pretty awesome. On top of all that, Thanksgiving is the start of Christmas festivities for most people. Even though I had already set up two Christmas trees and listened to Christmas music several times before Thanksgiving break, the nine hour car ride home gave me plenty of time to get even more excited for Christmas traditions.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is the Centralia Young Farmers Tractor Parade. This year will be the 12th annual year for the lighted tractor parade. Several of those years I watched the beautiful lit tractors from behind the Centralia 4-H’s hot cocoa stand. In recent years, I have noticed an increase in the size of the parade. The parade has become quite the attraction, especially for a small town like Centralia, Mo.

Of course the success of this holiday tradition wouldn't be possible without the inspiration that started it all.
Darren Reynolds, a Centralia native and a member of the Centralia Young Farmers, has always had an active role in the parade. The inspiration for the parade came from his mother, Norma. Norma saw an article in a farm magazine about a town in Minnesota that had a tractor parade.

From there, Darren took the article to the first Young Farmers meeting of fall 2007. Darren and the other members agreed that a tractor parade, such as the one they had seen in the farm magazine, was really neat. They began to think about how they could bring that festive experience to the streets of Centralia.

That same year, their dream became a reality. The first lighted tractor parade took place despite that the fact that it was foggy and likely challenging to drive through town. That first year, there were about 11 participants, most of them being members of the Centralia Young Farmers Organization. A handful of spectators gathered near the local grocery store and main street to watch the decorated tractors pass by.

After the first tractor parade in 2007, the event was mostly shared through word of mouth. Since then, the parade has become about seven times larger, recently averaging between 65 and 75 entries. The parade is now modernly advertised using a Facebook event page. The event currently has almost 7,000 people “interested” or “going” according to the event page on Facebook.

When I asked Darren if he ever the thought the parade would grow the way it has he said, “I always thought that the parade idea had the potential to be really big.”

Darren was right, and now people from all over the surrounding area drive to Centralia to see the tractors covered in Christmas lights.

This past year, Mike Deering from Montgomery City brought his family of four to the parade despite cold weather and the possibility of ice that night. He stated “It was cold and absolutely miserable outside. I was questioning why we decided to come, but then it started and the weather became a non issue,” Deering said. “The creativity and thoughtfulness that went into each display was truly awesome. This is what rural Missouri is all about. I've never seen anything like it.”

The parade also provides an economic boost for the community. Local businesses and organizations have benefitted from the spectators coming to town. For example, the Centralia First Christian Church hosts a fundraising supper with soup and chili before the parade begins. Marsha Corbin and her husband drove to Centralia from Dover, Mo. to see what the parade was all about and were able to experience the event.

“We enjoyed chili at the First Christian Church and stopped in several of the local stores around the square before the parade,” she said. “It was worth the drive!”

The Centralia Young Farmers Tractor Parade is an excellent opportunity for families and friends to start or continue a Christmas tradition. This year’s 12th Annual Centralia Young Farmers Tractor Parade will be Friday, December 14 starting at 7 p.m.. To really experience Centralia, come early to shop at local businesses, enjoy a nice dinner and experience the joys of a small town.