The One Man John Deere Parade

If you are the type who has trouble lining up enough drivers for all of your tractors at parade time, perhaps you should take a lesson from Frank Duvanel of Benton, Kansas, who drives six tractors through parades by himself. All beautifully restored cosmetically and mechanically, the 330S, 430W, 530 and 630 row crop and 730 standard all follow an 830 along the route.

A few years back when Frank retired from farming, he sold his larger machinery but kept a 530 that he had owned for quite a while. Pondering on how this was one of the last two cylinders, he decided to try and acquire the rest of the line. An 830, 730 standard, 630 row crop, 530 and 430W soon found their way to his place but it took a couple more years to find the holy grail of the 30 series—the 330.

As a second career, Frank got into the trailer business and realized that with a little bit of finesse, he could get all six tractors on a 50-foot trailer. So if one man could haul them all, why not have one man drive them all when they got to the show or parade?

The hitches between the tractors vary, depending on the situation. The hitch that pulls the 730 is hooked directly to the front axle; it does not hook to the spindles and does not steer the tractor. The 630 and 530 both have narrow fronts and a hitch bolts between the two front wheels; these hitches do steer the tractors. The hitches on the 430 and 330 attach to the frames. All hitches connect to a ball on the leading tractor. Ball hitches don’t have the slack of a pin type hitch and make for smoother stopping and starting. As an extra precaution, a safety chain is used between all tractors.

Cornering is surprisingly good and Frank is able to enter a parade that goes through a town and turn corners on city blocks. Someone once asked if he could drive the ensemble with all of the tractors running. It was not a problem keeping the tractors running, but the ones with power steering would fight him on the turns, so now only the 830 runs.

A lot is being asked of the 830’s brakes so Frank stays alert and wary when driving in a parade where there are a lot of stops and starts or when children might be chasing candy. He also, for the most part, tries to keep the tractor train on flat land.

While it only takes one person to drive the six tractors through a parade, Frank points out that it’s still quite a bit of work to load all six on the trailer, unload them, hook them up and then reverse the process after the show or parade. Still, the 79-year-old manages to take them to several shows a year and even has had them at the Kansas State Fair.


Photos by Dewayne Backhus