Food Hand-Off

As the 30-mile Knights of Columbus Journey for Charity Tractor Cruise made its way from St. Clair to Washington Sunday, Sept. 13, much of the action was roadside.

The Union KC Hall served as a rest stop for drivers on the course through the countryside, which takes several hours. The hall’s parking lot quickly filled with tractors new and old, large and small, as the parade came into town.

The half-hour break allows drivers, many of whom are seniors, to rehydrate and use the restroom, said Joe Elliott, the event’s treasurer. “It’s a long ride from St. Clair,” he said.

Around 90 tractors drove the leg from St. Clair to Washington. In Washington, they were expected to meet up with another group coming from Concord Hill, near Marthasville, for a total of 150 tractors.

The event brings in food and money for local food pantries, which Elliott said adds up to about $2,500 for each of the seven KC halls that take part. They each distribute to food pantries in their areas, with the Union Food Pantry and Second Blessings Food Pantry benefiting in Union.

“We’re very lucky because all of the profits go to the Knights of Columbus, and we give it to local food pantries,” he said.

No one along the route brings in more donations each year than a group of antique tractor enthusiasts who gather on the outskirts of St. Clair to watch the parade. This year, they brought in $966 in donations, which they used to buy a pyramid of 154 canned vegetable cases that Tractor Cruise representative Greg Papin filled a trailer with after the parade passed.

“We can’t say enough about how much we really appreciate this,” Papin told the dozens who watched the parade and then assisted with passing the cases into the trailer. “Especially with the virus going around and people getting sick and dying on us.”

The informal group displayed the canned goods in an antique Ford pickup and brings in nearly 30 of its own tractors to display. The event opens around 7 a.m., four hours before the tractors come by, and hot dogs and drinks are served.

“We kind of do it for the parade, so the guys driving their tractors can have something to see,” said Billy Trautman, one of the organizers of the St. Clair fundraiser.

While the Tractor Cruise has been taking place for 13 years, this is the sixth year the St. Clair group has held its event. The 2020 total, which doesn’t include food brought in by attendees on parade day, was more than they’ve had before.

“We outdid ourselves this year,” Trautman said.