Thousands Show Up to 'Bless the Combines'

8/9/2014 7:00 AM
By Michael Short Delmarva Correspondent

SNOW HILL, Md. — Snow Hill doesn’t usually have a parking problem.

But things are a little different the first Saturday of every August in this quiet Eastern Shore town.

Combines so massive they stand as tall as many of the town’s buildings rumble onto Green Street to be “blessed.”

For 16 years, Snow Hill has held its annual Blessing of the Combines. They roll into town, washed and polished with flags flying, and the spectacle attracts thousands of people. There’s a blessing, a color guard, the national anthem is played and farm officials speak in praise of Eastern Shore farmers.

Then, the party begins.

There’s food and music, vendors, children’s games, apple-pie-eating contests, a children’s tractor pull, a petting zoo, hayrides, boat rides, antique tractors, and farm machinery.

The employee-only town hall parking lot was taken over by lawn tractors, and 1,000 corn stalks tied with blue ribbons decorated every street sign in town.

Perhaps the oldest machinery on display, a circa 1949 harvester, was pulled by a team of three horses.

Participants were invited to nearby historic Furnace Town to end the day with dancing under the stars.

“It was four of us sitting around, 17 years ago, and we decided the farmers needed to be honored,” said Becky Payne, event chairman.

Payne and her family, Snow Hill officials, and some very dedicated volunteers pull off the event each year.

She said that farmers initially thought the idea was a little less than likely to succeed.

“They said, You’re crazy. Nobody will come out to see a combine,’” Payne said.

Spectators lined both sides of the street that first year and the farmers were amazed, she said.

Not even drenching rain just hours before could deter the Aug. 2 event.

In fact, it was a welcome relief for local farmers.

“We couldn’t have been more blessed with that rain last night,” said Maryland Farm Bureau President Chuck Fry.

The only concession to the inclement weather was the postponement of the adult tractor pull because of muddy conditions.

A poem was read by Autumn Fry entitled, “This is a Farmer.”

The author was unknown, but the words struck a familiar cord for farmers in the crowd.

“Wives help them, little boys follow them, the Agriculture Department confuses them, salesmen detain them, meals wait for them, weather can delay them, but it takes Heaven to stop them.”

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