FARMER -- The official population of Farmer is 10, but there were hundreds of spectators and participants in town Sunday afternoon for the 19th annual antique tractor and car parade held in the small community.
People from as far away as Belle Fourche converged on the tiny town 20 miles east of Mitchell on Sunday, bringing their vintage and modern tractors, cars and generally anything with a motor for a circuit around the community, where the streets were lined with spectators and kids were ready to chase down candy thrown by the drivers.
Vicky Glatt, who has helped organize the event since its inception, said interest in the parade has grown since they launched in 2000.
“I think the first year we had maybe 40 entries, and it’s increased. Last year we had 104, so it’s grown well,” Glatt said.
The participants make a loop through town past the spectators, then regroup and line up so people can come up and get a closer look at the machines. People in attendance are encouraged to take part in the people’s choice trophy voting, and food, drinks and inflatable rides for the kids are available throughout the event.
Glatt said the event is generally a laid-back affair that is driven by a sense of nostalgia. Not just for the tractors, cars and trucks from another era, but for the community of Farmer itself.
“I think it’s the casualness of it. It’s laid back," Glatt said. "A lot of the people that come here have some good memories of Farmer, because Farmer used to have some pretty great dances. I think some people come for that."
She said everybody is welcome to bring their tractor to take part, regardless of its condition or state of restoration.
“We don’t care if it’s a dirty tractor, they can show off whatever they have. We don’t have a lot of rules,” Glatt said.
While cool temperatures and a steady drizzle likely kept some people away, the parade still managed to sign up at least 60 entries, and the parade route was lined with people.
Dale Kunkel, of Plankinton, was one of those taking part in the parade. He said there was no way a little rain was going to keep him from bringing his machine.
“I love it. We live for this,” said Kunkel, who was taking part in the parade with his restored 1941 Case SC tractor. “If it had been pouring rain, we still would have been here.”
Kunkel said he had been coming to the parade in Farmer for about five years. The Case tractor has a special place in his heart, as his father and uncle both used Case machinery, and his father helped him with work on his Case before he died. The family tradition continued Sunday as Kyser, Kunkel’s grandson, was also in the seat guiding the tractor through the parade.
“We had a little bit of everything, but mostly Case. Since dad had one, I kind of wanted to have one. Before he passed away, it was nice because he would come over and help me and we tore this thing apart,” Kunkel said. “My daughter and I said dad is probably up there looking down and smiling right now because it has come a long way.”
The event also serves as a bit of a homecoming for Kunkel.
“I grew up probably about five miles from here on a farm, he said. "I know a lot of people here, so it’s nice to come back and get to meet everybody. A lot of the time the only time I see them is once a year here."
Larry Moeller, of Mitchell, had his 1949 Farmall B ready to go near the front of the line Sunday afternoon. Like many others, he was unconcerned about the gray skies and damp conditions.
“I’ve probably been coming here for about 10 years. It’s just a good time. It’s too bad the weather is like it is today, but we usually get over 100 entries,” Moeller said. “There were a lot of people who had doubts about it, but we’re going to make it. A little rain never hurt anybody.”
The parade was a mix of cars, trucks and tractors. One of those cars was owned by Ryan Iverson, of Humboldt, who had his 1966 VW Bug ready to roll in the parade. Iverson said he discovered the parade through friends who encouraged him to participate.
“I moved to Humboldt last year, and some friends of ours said they have this show out here every year,” Iverson said. “We got here last year after the parade started, so we didn’t get to register but we still went through the parade. So we made sure we got out here in time for registration this year.”
Iverson echoed the thoughts of others taking part in the parade.
“It’s a neat little community. I love seeing the old tractors and cars,” Iverson said.
Glatt said the volunteers who help run the show are essential to making sure the event goes off without a hitch, and that sponsors allow the community to provide entertainment they would otherwise be unable to afford, like the inflatable rides for the kids.
And while the parade is now in its 19th year, Glatt said this year was a special first for the event.
“Honestly, this is the first year that we’ve had rain,” she laughed.
Eighteen out of 19 years of sunshine for the parade is not a bad average, she admitted. And hopefully, those that came out to drive and watch will take more good memories of the event and return for more fun next year.
“Hopefully, we can keep it going for many years,” she said.