Agriculture spends a lot of money educating consumers about fresh, nutritious, local food. But the best connect between consumers and farmers is their common love for good food and entertainment.
That's why the sleepy little farm town of Snow Hill, Md., will wake up and come alive with both – good food and entertainment – this Saturday with its 15th annual Blessing of the Combines celebration. Combines, antique tractors and more will wheel over the Pocomoke River Bridge, decorated with corn, banners, sunflowers and black-eyed susans into the center of town.
Becky Payne, its chief organizer, expects up to 2,000 people to pack the parade route into town. "At first, when I asked farmers about a 'blessing of the combines' event, they thought we'd lost our minds," recalls Becky. "They thought no one would honor them.
"But when they crossed over the bridge at the first blessing, they couldn't believe the streets were lined on both sides just to see the combines. A few years later, one farmer said that he smiled at seeing the decorated bridge, but when he saw the crowd on the other side the hair on his arms stood up."
Becky's father, Gus Payne, owner of downtown's Western Auto store, saw the idea as a way to spur the local economy. He liked it even more because he was a farmer, first. With Becky's help, the "Blessing of the Combines" quickly gained traction.
Combines on a roll
Local farmers were asked to clean and polish their combines and drive them in a parade on the first Saturday in August. Every one with a combine said, "Yes!" Others brought their antique tractors. And, Snow Hill's Ministerial Association was thrilled to provide a "blesser."
The town of Snow Hill asked, "How can we help?" Farm animals were lined up for a barnyard animal petting exhibit in the bank parking lot. The "Blessing of the Combines" was on!
So on Saturday, Aug. 3, the 11 a.m. parade of red, green and rust-colored combines plus a string of antique tractors will roll into town over the Pocomoke Bridge. Then comes the opening ceremony and the heads-bowed moment as a minister blesses the combines and the men and women who work the harvests.
"It's a day for meeting and greeting, giving and returning smiles, petting farm animals, enjoying hayrides or pony rides, plus exploring food and craft vendors," says Becky Payne. But as with any major event, much person-power is required. And that has been provided by Gus Payne's grandson, three granddaughters and their husbands plus many friends.
Check out the blessing at www.blessingofthecombines.org .