SUNNYSIDE Bob Hadeen and Tom Taylor were visionaries, if anyone in the community of Sunnyside ever was.
He is the man who developed the idea of decorating farm equipment with Christmas lights and parading them through town.
That idea was first developed in 1989. The idea bloomed, and Sunnyside celebrated its 30th annual Lighted Farm Implement Parade on Dec. 1, which was originally christened the Country Christmas Parade.
Sharon Kilian has been given the unofficial title of Sunnyside Lighted Farm Implement Parade historian.
She and her husband Ervin were selected this year to serve as grand marshals for the parade with Karen and John Friend.
Ervin, however, passed away Nov. 13, and Sharon was featured in the parade, honoring him.
Sharon, in an interview five years ago, told the story of the parade’s history.
She said Hadeen and Taylor gathered businessmen and farmers in a meeting and suggested they could start a parade using lighted farm implements.
“They explained they would like for Sunnyside to have a parade, featuring farm implements lit for the holidays,” said Sharon, stating farm implements are a symbol of the agricultural community that is Sunnyside.
Hadeen, she said, believed there would be just a few tractors and other farm implements entered into the parade in 1989. However, he didn’t know the idea would “… catch like wildfire.” There were 35 entries that first year.
Among the first entries was the 1910 Avery steam tractor owned by Pasco’s Paul and Sharon Lawson. That tractor was entered in the parade each year during the first two decades, but it became too expensive to operate, according to Sharon.
She said her husband Ervin and his brothers were among the first entrants in the parade, as well. The Kilian brothers owned one of the Yakima Valley’s first grape harvesters and entered it in the parade back in 1989.
“I have pictures from each year…when you finish decorating for the parade, you want to document the achievement,” said Sharon.
Because of its popularity, Sunnyside’s Lighted Farm Implement Parade draws more than 25,000 visitors to the community each year.
Those visitors shop, eat and sleep in Sunnyside. It’s a great opportunity for local businesses to grab a hold of that customer base.
Sunnyside’s Lighted Farm Implement Parade was the first of its kind. Other communities have taken the idea and sponsored similar parades, but Sunnyside residents are proud that the tradition began here.
Visitors are exposed to the agricultural community and what Sunnyside has to offer, and it has garnered national attention.
Sharon said the recognition is good for the community. There have been crews from a national cable television channels here, filming the event for viewers.
The event has also been featured in magazines like Country Woman, as well.
Yakima followed Sunnyside’s example and is one of several cities now featuring a parade like the one Sunnyside features each December.
“At first we were upset they decided to have one, but ours is still recognized as the first of its kind,” Sharon said.
She said Sunnyside residents and people from across the nation gather along the sidewalks of the community each December to view the premier event.
“It wouldn’t be possible without the community’s support,” said Sharon.
She said community members have embraced the parade and have spread the word to those living outside Sunnyside. That support developed a greater interest, resulting in tour buses and RVs rolling into town each year specifically for the event.
Visitors are often in awe.
Sharon believes Hadeen’s vision has developed into something the entire community can be proud of.
The first-ever Country Christmas Parade was also an opportunity to show appreciation to community members who have made a difference in the community. Those are the people who are recognized as grand marshals in the parade.
The parade in 1989 was followed by a community Christmas decoration lighting ceremony at South Sixth Street and East Edison Avenue, and a food drive sponsored by the Uptown Sunnyside Association that took place at the same time.
Now, community members and visitors have the opportunity to support local community organizations and school programs before and during the parade. The Lower Valley Soroptimist Club organizes its annual Merry Makings event at the Mid Valley Mall, the Kiwanians annually provide a pancake feed, Sunnyside firefighters serve chili and local Boy Scouts have organized the annual 1-mile Jingle Bell Fun Run event.
All those opportunities are just an example of how the Lighted Farm Implement Parade gets better over the years.
This year’s annual Lighted Farm Implement Parade will be on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 6:30 p.m.