Despite a wet start to the day Sunday, the sun broke through for another successful charity tractor cruise.
A total of 142 tractors took part in the 12th annual Knights of Columbus Journey for Charity Tractor Cruise. Thirty-four of those drivers drove the north route through Warren County, a new feature this year.
“Everybody who participates in this — drivers and helpers — pretty much understands the weather,” said John Jasper, an event organizer with the Union Knights of Columbus. “We watched it (the storm) and knew it was going to move on through. When it was time to go, it was pretty much well past us. It was blessed. Everybody was suited up with rain gear and the weather really didn’t play a factor.”
Jasper said there were less people along the route this year, but that didn’t stop the generosity of the community.
“The folks (who watched the tractors pass by) along the route were down a little bit — maybe they thought we wouldn’t do it,” She said. “And they didn’t want to sit out in the rain waiting for us, but the food collection was unbelievable. We were really close to a total of 7,000 pounds in donations. We had one place between Union and St. Clair that had 170 cases of food waiting for us. It just blows me away when I see this stuff. It’s a great community. They really support this event.”
About 1,000 pounds of food will be donated to each of the seven food pantries. That was up from 4,800 pounds of food donated to six pantries last year. The food is divided up and given to the pantries to place right away.
The new north route helped ease the navigation of the south route, according to Jasper. Instead of 142 tractors chugging along one route, the 34 tractors on the north lessened the load of having one overcrowded route.
“What that did was make both lines move very efficient,” Jasper said. “Those 34 tractors would have been moving with us on the normal route. That many tractors is a little bit tougher to navigate. We had the line down shorter and were able to come through a little bit easier. It was a win-win for both sides.”
Good communication with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and other local law enforcement agencies played a factor as well.
“We had 16 two-way radios and the state patrol was tuned in to that as well,” Jasper said. “Everyone can listen to everybody. We had the patrol at the front and back of the line. Even guys on the utility vehicle were communicating all the time. If someone had an issue or sees something, we’re on it right away.”
With the new route, planning began earlier this year. It started in January instead of April. Now that the north route is part of the cruise, it will be easier to plan for next year.
“We had to plan earlier in order to synchronize the north route,” Jasper said. “We needed to prepare those folks on what it takes to make things work. We started planning that route with them in January. They were excited about it and really wanted to do it. Coming toward the end of the line for preparations, they were ahead of us.”
The event has been organized by the Union, Washington, St. Clair and St. John’s-Gildehaus Knights of Columbus councils in the past. The New Haven, Dutzow and St. Gertrude councils joined this year.
“The week before the day of the event is busy for us planners,” Jasper said. “We get to thinking if we really want to do this again, but then you get to see how lucky and successful everyone was in order to make this work. It automatically motivates you to keep going for next year.”
Monetary donations haven’t been added up yet and Jasper said organizers still need to pay bills associated with the day, but he expects the total to be close to last year’s all-time high of $32,000.
“Both sides of the river are great communities,” he said. “It was a fun day. It’s a once a year event and throughout the year, throughout the winter, a lot of guys get their tractors ready to go and it’s all about this event.”
Jasper said the Knights of Columbus will continue to accept monetary donations throughout the month. Donations can be made out to the Knights of Columbus Tractor Cruise at P.O. Box 561, Union, MO 63084.
The routes both met in Washington and finished at the KC Hall.
“We had a great turnout in Washington,” Jasper said. “We went through all the food that we prepped. The kids pedal tractor pull also was a big draw. The sun came out and it just made the day.”
Next year’s event is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020.