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FFA members mark ‘Drive Your Tractor to School Day’

By Geoff Parks

For the Capital Press

At a high school set in the heart of Willamette Valley farm country, students drive tractors to school once a year as part of National FFA Week.

ST. PAUL, Ore. — If St. Paul High FFA members Michael McKay and Ethan Smith were in a hurry to get to school on Feb. 20 to celebrate National FFA Week, they could have chosen vehicles that went faster than the ones they picked — tractors with top speeds of around 20 mph.

But it was “Drive Your Tractor to School Day,” an event that has been such an important part of FFA Week (Feb. 15-22) at St. Paul High that both boys’ fathers participated more than 35 years ago.

St. Paul High FFA Advisor Kristi Duyck — who teaches agricultural sciences — said of the 105 students attending the small Willamette Valley school, 40 participate in FFA and most are farm kids.

Six tractors showed up in the school parking lot on Feb. 20. Two belonged to McKay, 15, who drove a 485 Case-IH Quad Trac, and Smith, 17, who drove a 300-horsepower John Deere 8330.

The machines represented “the biggest tractors we own,” McKay said.

Duyck said those who participate in the tractor day typically clean and wash their vehicles thoroughly the week before. Bringing good-looking tractors “is for bragging rights only,” Smith said.

Both boys had to be at school before 7:15 a.m., McKay said, so his 2-mile drive in the tracked vehicle at 18-mph had to be planned well in advance.

Smith’s John Deere can hit a top speed of 26 mph. Unfortunately, he said, “I had to follow my brother’s tractor and he was only going 18.”

“The cool thing is that we have FFA fields around the school where we grow our own crops,” McKay said. “We use both of those tractors for ground work in the ryegrass and alfalfa fields we plant in the fall.”

“Drive Your Tractor to School Day” is traditionally scheduled on the Thursday of National FFA Week at St. Paul High.

Duyck said there’s plenty of other activities going on the other four days.

Dress-up theme days take place each day of the week, including “Camo and Romeo Day” (camouflage clothes and Romeo-brand slip-on shoes); Western Day; and Red, White and Blue Day. FFA members wear their blue-and-gold coats and shirts on another of the theme days.

On Friday, St. Paul High FFA held its first-ever Chapter Ag Olympics — a special day of activities that has been a staple of the week at nearby Perrydale High for the past 25 or so years. Included were such events as nail hammering, hay stacking and seed spitting.


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