Columbus FFA members demonstrated their agricultural heritage by driving their tractors to school Friday.
The traditional FFA Week caravan included about 15 tractors, trucks and even a 20-foot-tall pesticide sprayer as part of the procession that went from the Columbus Bowling Center parking lot on the city’s east side around the corner to the bus parking lot at Columbus East High School.
Farming is alive and well in Bartholomew County, and that deserves a little celebration, said Allison Korb, Columbus East High School agriculture teacher.
Gene Hack, director for the Columbus Area Career Connection (C4) for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., said the tradition of driving farm equipment to school was established even before he joined the district more than 25 years ago.
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“There’s nothing like seeing the sun come up as the tractors drive by,” Hack said.
Leading the pack this year was an unusual, older tractor co-owned by Columbus East junior Emma Mensendiek. When it was built in the 1940s or 1950s, her vintage Allison-Chalmers C-Allis tractor was an earthy orange color, she said.
But now, it’s a pinkish-purple color, a compromise with her sister Anna, who co-owns the tractor.
“We couldn’t decide between pink or purple, so we found a color halfway in between,” Emma Mensendiek laughed.
Her father, Mike Mensendiek, said he hopes his daughters will one day see the value in returning the vintage tractor to its original paint color. But until that day, he’s just happy to see his children follow in his farming footsteps.
Emma Mensendiek said she has been driving tractors since her father helped her putter around the farm lot in first gear when she was 3 years old.
“Anyone who grows up on a farm claims a tractor, so I figured I better buy them one,” Mike Mensendiek said.
Hunter Harper, whose family has raised pigs on and off for about nine years, was also driving a vintage tractor from the early ’50s.
Hunter’s 1953 Oliver 550 is still in its original green paint.
Emma and Hunter led the line of farming equipment as students — some accompanied by cautious parents — drove in the caravan to East at about 7:30 a.m.
Columbus Police officers provided an escort with warning lights of the slower-moving tractors.
But not all of the equipment was vintage.
Freshman Ethan Miracle drove a John Deere 4640 from the 1980s. On this chilly, snow-spitting morning, modernity has a few important advantages over the whimsy of older machines.
Namely, Miracle’s family tractor has a fully enclosed cab to keep out the icy February wind.
“This is my first year doing this,” Miracle said. “Just seemed like a fun thing to do.”
His commute from home to the bowling alley parking lot was only about 15 minutes. But tractors are slow-moving machines and some participants left home at 5 a.m., driving down country roads for more than two hours to reach the parking lot in time, Korb said.
The event caps off a week of chili suppers, church events and a basketball game between Columbus FFA and Hauser FFA — all part of National FFA Week.