A memorial tractor drive on Friday morning by local farmers on the Northern Neck turned agriculture into a big story over the holiday weekend.
Traveling for over 30 miles, about 26 farmers from around the region honored one of their own, the late Luther Welch. Welch had been a farmer for more than 50 years before he died in 2012. In 2006 he and his wife Margaret donated land and his own collection of antique farm equipment for the Northern Neck Farm Museum near Burgess. The museum is also used for a vegetable teaching garden that educates children about food production and environmental skills. The fresh vegetables are donated to a local food bank.
The parade began at the Ruritan Recreation Park in Callao just after 10 a.m. and wound its way down Rt. 360 through Callao, Village and Warsaw. It ended in Westmoreland County with souped-up tractors and trucks that participated in the pull, then turned around and headed back to the Ruritan lot several hours later. Proceeds from the pull will benefit local volunteer fire and rescue squad organizations.
One of Welch’s last visits before passing away was to Robert H. Gawen’s first truck and tractor pull in Westmoreland County.
Gawen, a farmer who also owns a trucking company, said Welch inspired him to coordinate the Tractor Drive through three counties. Gawen also did the drive in honor of another friend, Robbins Douglas.
“Everybody really loved it,” Gawen said.
The truck and tractor pull site near his home has been an evolving concept, Gawen said, adding that over 500 attended Saturday’s all day event. The idea came to him after seeing a similar tractor pull on television. He thought it was a great idea to do something similar in his hometown.
“Everybody chipped in and did it for free,” Gawen said, adding that he can’t take all the credit. The Westmoreland County Rescue Squad, Cople District Volunteer Firer Department and organizers of the new Westmoreland YMCA were the benefactors of the fundraiser. In addition, ten people who attended the event were given $100 each by Gawen.
He said this is the last truck and tractor pull until the spring.
“It’s all in fun,” Gawen said. “I think the firemen and rescue squad need the money because everybody calls on them including me from time to time, and I just want to help them the best way I can.”