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Underclassmen Embrace the Open Road on ‘Drive Your Tractor to School Day’

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Contributed
Samara Thomas, NHS senior, sits with NHS faculty member Katy Aseltine’s son on a tractor during last year’s ‘Drive Your Tractor to School Day’ at Nonnewaug.

WOODBURY – Early in the morning at Nonnewaug High School, students are ditching their traditional school commutes, and instead, revving up their tractors. Students from all grades at NHS travel from home on their machines and roll into the parking lot. 

It’s ‘Drive Your Tractor to School Day’– a beloved 30-year old tradition that allows students to showcase their farm equipment and share their passion for agriculture with the community, encouraging the lifestyle we are all interested in.

“I would say we probably had 25-30 kids participate in ‘Drive Your Tractor to School Day’ when I did it,” said Megan Gauvain, Woodbury FFA alumni. “I feel like it has grown to be much more popular over the past few years with a larger array of types and sizes of tractors.” 

From shiny vintage tractors, to powerful and modern machinery, Nonnewaug agriscience students get to proudly display their tractors. Students put in a lot of effort when it comes to preparing their tractors for tractor day. Some go above and beyond by giving them fresh paint jobs, making sure they’re riding on good tires, a wash and a shine. And students love to share the process that involves tinkering, troubleshooting and luck, when students have to get their tractor to start in the first place.

Devon Zapatka, an NHS senior, poses on a tractor during last spring’s ‘Drive Your Tractor to School Day.’ Zapatka plans on once again bringing his tractor to campus later this month.

“My uncle and I worked on getting one of our older Massey Ferguson tractors back to running condition,” said Gauvain. “This was a fun project for us to work on together, with the end result being able to drive it to school for the day.” 

Even students that attend from surrounding towns 20 or 30 minutes away participate, waking up really early in the morning and starting their drive or towing their tractor to some place close by. 

“I drove my sophomore and junior year before I had my license,” said Woodbury FFA alumni, Chris Cox, 2014 graduate. “It felt awesome being able to drive 20 miles an hour on a tractor from Oxford, leaving at 4:30 in the morning.”

For this year’s drivers, many students are also coming from far away and will build that long commute into their morning. 

“I’m probably going to leave pretty early, my tractor isn’t the fastest,” said Lucas Potucek, freshman at Nonnewaug. “I’ll plan for pretty early and see where it goes from there.” 

Nonnewaug is one of very few schools in Connecticut that give students the opportunity and freedom to participate in activities like this. “’Drive your tractor to school day’ is a fun event for all students in Woodbury FFA to be able to participate in if they are able to,” said Gauvain. “It is a very unique opportunity that is not offered at all schools, and also fun for the community to see kids drive to and from school.” 

Not only do students get to make memories on ‘drive your tractor to school day,’ but the community gets involved, too. Parents, students and even the local media, come out to view the giant machines. It’s an annual event that brings everyone together. 

“The day they stop doing tractor day is the day the Ag program will take a big chunk out of the thrill of being a part of Woodbury FFA,” said Cox. “It gives everyone something to look forward to, even those who do not participate in the FFA. The public, I think, also enjoys seeing it all happen.

Underclassmen look forward to this day, which gives them the opportunity to drive themselves to school without their license. 

“It’s pretty nice because you get to feel the ropes a bit, and have the ability to drive on the road and know how to do it,” said Potucek. “Taking your tractor to school gets you more ready for driving, plus, farmers drive their tractors on the road all the time.” 

Perhaps the most impacted by the day are NHS’ freshmen who will enjoy the independence of driving to school–even if it’s just for a day. 

“This gives more freedom for kids that can’t drive yet,” said Henry Strzelecki, freshman at Nonnewaug. “I think it’s something people look forward to since it only happens once a year.” 

If you see a convoy of tractors cruising down the road, know it’s not a parade but a celebration of our community’s roots in agriculture, hard work and student passion. 

“I think this event helps bring awareness to how important agriculture is and how many young adults are interested in pursuing work within the agriculture field,” said Gauvain. “I also think it’s a great event for the entire school to show how many students are in the ag program and give them the opportunity to see and learn more about the different tractors.” 

In addition, part of the incentive is breakfast in the parking lot where ag students prepare food and drinks for those that brought their tractors to display. 

“Nothing better than a Red Bull and sausage, egg and cheese on the tractor in the early morning,” said Cox.

Regardless of whether students make it to campus on-time for breakfast, the lasting impact of the day is measured in Region 14’s commitment to agriculture. 

“Overall, my experience with tractor day, back then, was great,” said Gauvain. “It’s something that not everyone gets to participate in, and the fact that our school program encourages the lifestyle we are all interested in.”

About the Contributor
Jillian Brown '24
Jillian Brown '24, Reporter
Jillian Brown is a senior at Nonnewaug High School and writes for the NHS Chief Advocate as a reporter. She is a first-year journalism student. Jillian is a member of the Woodbury FFA, works at a plant nursery along with working on a farm, and spends her free time with friends. Her plan is to pursue welding after graduating from Nonnewaug. As a staff writer, she enjoys writing about agricultural pieces.
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