Lower temperatures and clear skies created the perfect storm Sunday for a successful tractor cruise.
There were 157 tractors taking part in the 11th annual Knights of Columbus Journey for Charity Tractor Cruise that stretched 30 miles from St. Clair to Washington.
“We had a great day yesterday,” said John Jasper, an event organizer with the Union Knights of Columbus. “We went from nail biting because of storms and rain to a beautiful sunny day — we were very blessed.”
The event is organized by the Knights of Columbus councils in Washington, Union, New Haven, Villa Ridge, St. Clair and Krakow.
“There is a lot going on to make that one day happen,” Jasper added. “The happiest day for me is the Monday after — we made it, nobody broke down. I am glad everybody made it safely and we all had fun.”
This year saw one of the highest in participation, but it was down slightly from 166 tractors in 2017.
However, Jasper noted there were about 12 new riders, including a man from Ohio who heard about the charity cruise while visiting family locally.
“He had always heard about it and wanted to be part of it,” he said. “The riders come from all over.”
Planning for the annual event begins in April and there are many moving parts that make it a success each year.
“Every council plays a big role. Everybody has a part and it all comes together,” Jasper commented. They all bring ideas back to the table and we polish the event each year.”
The tractor riders are only a part of the puzzle, he said. Businesses, volunteers, cooks, law enforcement officers and more come together to make the event possible.
“It takes everybody to work together to pull this off and make it through without any disruptions.”
That includes the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, local police forces and volunteers at road crossings who move on to the next crossing as the tractors pass.
Then when the cruise concludes, there is a meal and pedal tractor pull held at the KC Hall in Washington.
“We thank everybody who supported this thing,” Jasper said. “The businesses, volunteers and all of the law officers who make this day great — and we thank the Lord for a good sunny day.”
That gratitude extends to the tractor drivers who put a lot of effort into cleaning and hauling tractors.
“It is a fun day for them,” Jasper noted. “It is a good, all-around family event day from start to finish.”
Along the route, tractor riders and other volunteers collected 4,800 pounds of food divided among six pantries. The food was divvied up once the cruise ended at the KC Hall in Washington.
“When we got over there with two truckloads of food, we got it all boxed up,” Jasper added. “They drew numbers and selected their pile.”
The food was on the shelves of the pantries Monday morning.
“They were all tickled,” Jasper said. “That is always great to have a direct impact.”
“There were a lot of donations made that day throughout the route,” he added. “A lot of folks really stepped up. It is amazing what happens that day.”
The monetary donations also will be split up among the pantries.
There was one change this year compared to previous years.
Jasper explained that tractors paired up to cross major intersections at Highway 47 and Independence Drive and Highway 100 and South Point Road to cut the delay times in half.
“I want to thank the people for being patient,” he said. “It all worked out.”
Jasper said it is important to stay on schedule because many people are gathered roadside to watch the tractors roll by.
“We learn a lot, just from year to year, as far as timing and leaving we always try to keep that schedule,” he said. “It is a three-hour event. A lot of families in front yards waiting. We don’t want to disappoint them.”