Jeanne Sager | Democrat
SULLIVAN COUNTY DAIRY Princess April Drake may have had to wear her gown for the parade, but she’s still a country girl just check out her pink-edged work boots!
Despite heat, they still came out for the parade
By Jeanne Sager
CALLICOON There’s only one rule for tractor parade day in Callicoon go extreme.
Mother Nature complied, with the mercury rising above the 90-degree mark, driven sky high by the diesel engines’ putt, putt, putting through town.
Hundreds of engines. Two hundred sixty-two according to Ian McBeath the day’s official tractor counter.
The early heat of summer did nothing to deter the drivers who came from as far as Mount Hope (and as near as just down the road) to get in on the action.
And it wasn’t going to keep the people away the hundreds of people who lined the sidewalks and camped out on the railroad banks.
It is, after all, tradition. Summer comes to the small river hamlet, dragged on the trailer hitches of the tractors on the second Sunday of June every year.
Families gather for their reunions. Visitors pile in.
This year’s crowd had them all lifelong natives, Grammy Award nominees in the form of blues singer James Hunter and visitors from the city.
“He’s talked about it all year,” said Callicoon resident Jane Blake of grandson Henry.
The 4-year-old from Brooklyn had his own John Deere in the parade powered by grandma, pulling the plastic mobile on a rope.
A resident of Callicoon for the past several decades, Blake said the parade makes its mark on the landscape.
“Everybody comes out and supports it,” she said. “I love that.”
“It’s one of the last great slices of Americana,” said North Branch resident Marc Switko. “How many towns in America have a tractor parade?”
Switko’s daughter, Emma, 5, lined up immediately for her tractor parade t-shirt, designed for the third year by part-time Callicoon resident Melissa Easton.
Emma’s red shirt was just one of hundreds sold from a small stand in the center of the action along with toy John Deeres and stamp cancellations made just for the occasion by the employees of the Callicoon Post Office.
The 12th annual parade kept the crowds rapt for more than an hour just enough time for the tractors to make their way from the Delaware Youth Center (the parade sponsor) up Main Street, down Audley Dorrer Drive and back around to the center on Creamery Road.
Folks who stuck around were treated to chicken barbecue at the youth center 600 were served and a giant ice cream sundae concocted by this year’s dairy princess, April Drake, who manned her own tractor in full regalia crown, gown and pink work boots.
“I think it was one of the best parades yet,” said organizer Kathy Langley. “People seem to have had as good a time in year 12 as they did in year one or year five!
“There are a lot of fellas I don’t know except for tractor parade, and I remember them coming with babies one year… suddenly they were here today with kids who were 5 or 6 years old.”
Back as usual was emcee Jesse Ballew, who stood in the heat for more than an hour calling out the names of the drivers and their machines beginning with parade leaders Jim and Diane Hughson of Jeffersonville.
The Hughsons had great-niece Maggie Herbert along for the ride, driving home the real heart of the tractor parade for Langley family.
In a small town on the hottest day of the year, with fuel prices rising faster and faster, fathers, sons, grandpas, granddaughters… they gathered in Callicoon for an old-fashioned parade.
“Doug Santoro told me today, ‘You know, this is a hoot,’” Langley said with a laugh. “He’s right. It really is amazing.”