ST. ALBANS CITY — Chad Machia has been busy this past week. Busy covering his five John Deere tractors in Christmas lights.
“I need a lot of lights,” he said on Monday.
So far, Machia has used about seven thousand. “There’s still quite a few lights to go on,” he said in his yard on Wednesday.
He’s also washed his five tractors, attached them together with chains, hooked up three generators for the lights, and decorated them with snowflakes and bows.
He also has a red sleigh for Santa and Mrs. Claus to sit in.
By yesterday afternoon, Machia had spent about 37 hours getting ready for the First Annual Tractor Parade, to take place tomorrow in downtown St. Albans. The idea, sparked by Berkshire Cow Power owner Amanda St. Pierre and organized with both Machia and the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, has quickly come to life (and light) over the past two weeks.
“I think it’s going to be real fun,” said Steve Martin, the Co-op operations manager. He said that St. Albans City Mayor Liz Gamache and the St. Albans Police Department readily accepted the idea of a tractor parade on short notice.
The event has also quickly garnered sponsors, including Agri-Mark, WOKO, St. Albans Co-op, Dairy Farmers of America, and Berkshire Cow Power and Green Mountain Power (GMP) Cow Power.
“It’s one of the benefits of being in a small town,” said Martin. He added, “We’re hoping a whole bunch of the community shows up.”
So far, between 15 and 20 tractors have been recruited to participate by Machia and St. Pierre. They’re coming from all across Franklin County.
“St. Albans all the way up through Berkshire,” said Martin. Drivers in a hurry may want to avoid going southbound on Route 105 on Friday afternoon.
“It’s hard for the guys to get a tractor here – they have to drive it here,” said Martin. He added that local farmers were pulling out all the stops, including Machia, whose float will probably end up being about 70 feet long.
“[It’s] the really big, heavy-duty equipment – the kind the kids really like,” Martin said.
Most farmers are using 10,000-watt generators to power the lights. “That’s enough to run two homes,” Martin said.
Are there awards for the brightest, most spirited tractor? “Just internal bragging rights at this point in time,” said Martin.
He added that in addition to holiday tractors, they’re trying to recruit a milk tanker as well to light up like the S.D. Ireland concrete trucks – another part of the inspiration for the parade, since, said Martin, those trucks really seem to bring joy to those who see them pass.
“That’s really what this parade’s about – bringing a lot of good cheer,” he said. Martin added, “What kind of kid isn’t going to love a tractor in lights?”
As for the cows – well, they’re going to be left at home, at least this year.
“Maybe in the future,” Martin said.
The festivities will start and end in the Co-op parking lot. The parade of lit and decorated tractors will begin at 5 p.m. and will follow Federal St. to Lake Street, turn onto North Main Street, and then finish down Lower Newton St. and back to the Co-op. Face-painting, hot cocoa, music from station WOKO and Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be at the Co-op until 7 p.m.
In addition, canned and non-perishable food items will be collected for Northwest Family Foods, and anyone who donates will get a free face-painting.
“We wanted to definitely make sure food was part of the parade,” said Martin. He added that local farmers already have a tradition of feeding others, though in this case, milk, yogurt and cheese weren’t exactly easy to give and preserve to local families. So, they are deferring to the food shelf.
“We’re just hoping people are responsive and donate generously,” said Martin. He added that attendance numbers were looking good on the event’s Facebook page. As of Thursday morning, over 330 people were planning on attending.
“People really sound like they want to come,” said Martin. “We’ve never done a parade but we want agriculture to be part of the Christmas spirit.”
He added, “We want to find ways the give back to the community.”