It’s unknown exactly when or why students started to bring tractors to West Lincoln High School on homecoming day. The way may have had something to do with the rivalry between West and East Lincoln High School. Those at East Lincoln sometimes referred to those going to West Lincoln High School as “Tater Diggers.” Billy Taylor, who graduated from West Lincoln High School in 1990, was at the parade on Friday with his daughter, Torie, who was going to drive the family tractor. He remembers students driving their tractors to school on homecoming day.
“It wasn’t organized at first, several kids just started it on their own accord,” West Lincoln principal Brian Clary said. “It started out with two, three, maybe four tractors and they’d drive them around the parking lot before school started. When they heard the warning bell, they’d park their tractors and get to class.”
More and more students started to bring their tractors, and around 2007, Dr. Matt Stover, the principal at that time, moved it from the parking lot to the track at the football stadium. The parade has grown ever since.
The western side of the county is rural and there are a lot of farmers. Most of them have tractors, and like Taylor, use them on a daily basis. It’s a way of life for them and they’re proud of their heritage.
“We’re a rural farming community and we’ve got a ton of tractors,” he said. “There’s some old, good-looking tractors, there’s some old, old tractors and there’s some crazy, high-dollar tractors. I assume other schools have a homecoming parade. I’ll say we’re the only one that does a tractor parade.”
Hanna Sain Suttle, who graduated from West Lincoln in 2012, drove a tractor in the parade when she was a senior. She now teaches at West Lincoln.
“It’s always been a big tradition that we look forward to every year,” she said. “We have a lot of pride in West Lincoln. We live in a community where farming is a big source of revenue for a lot of our families and I don’t know anyone who farms ‘taters. When we came to support the football team during games, we were called the ‘cowbell choir.’ When I was a student, we were very loud and proud at the tractor parade every year. We yelled and screamed for all of our friends driving tractors.”
This year, there were more than 45 tractors taking part in the parade, and for safety reasons, Clary split them into two groups. All of the West Lincoln High School students, as well as all of the students from West Lincoln Middle School, are able to come out and sit in the stands to watch the parade. Parents are also invited to come.
The tractors started arriving at the school at around 7 a.m. Most are driven from home and others are trailered in. It wasn’t long before the smell of diesel filled the air as tractors of all makes, models and sizes lined up for the parade. All were decorated, mostly with patriotic colors or in Rebel red. There’s no dress code on homecoming, a/k/a “Rowdy Rebel” day. Many of the students, male and female, wore “Daisy Duke” shorts with cowboy boots.
As the tractors started filing onto the track, several of them almost too wide to fit on the track, country music played over the loudspeakers. The first group of tractors made several laps around the track before the next group came on. Cowbells rang from the stadium and students cheered for their friends.
“The Tractor Parade is one of the many things that makes West Lincoln High School so special,” said Lincoln County Schools superintendent Dr. Lory Morrow as she watched the parade. “It’s exciting to see the kids driving their tractors and be proud of their heritage in this community. It’s a great way to celebrate homecoming.”