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Tractor run treks to Newcastle

Walter L. Sprague, Arts and Culture Reporter

On Thursday, Sept. 8, Newcastle was mildly overrun by a slow-moving and colorful invasion from the east.
For the first time in four years, the Black Hills South Dakota Tractor Run came to town.
It tries to do one every two years, but its last run was in 2018. When COVID hit, the organization had to cancel its 2020 run, but the time had come, and the run had to continue.
“We had to keep going,” said Carol Parrish, organizer of the run and resident of Hinton, Iowa. “It’s been too long, and no one wanted just to stay home again, especially me.”
Most runs don’t come to Newcastle, but the Black Hills group decided its members wanted to venture west.
“Everybody wanted to see Wyoming,” said Tony Van Voorst, of Custer. “We’ve done it in the past a couple of times. Most of us remember how great it was, so we all had to come to Newcastle again.”
“The last time we came to Newcastle was in 2008.” Parrish said, “It’s a whole day just to make the run from Custer to Newcastle for lunch and then back. But it is worth it.”
Voorst said that the tractors could only go about 15 miles per hour, so the run into Newcastle is a full day round trip.
This year the run started on Wednesday, Sept. 7 when people from all over the Midwest gathered in Custer, then went on to Hill City, Keystone and Mt. Rushmore on the first day. The second day was the Newcastle Run, where participants had lunch at Pizza Hut before returning to Custer. 
Parrish said it’s unfortunate they have had to build up almost from scratch again since COVID shut things down, but expressed confidence in their ability to do so, noting that the run has grown before and predicting it will grow again.
“In 2018, we had 92 tractors make the run. This year, we have only 18,” she said. “Our first run was in 2003, and we only had 13 tractors, so it’s not quite building from scratch.”
When the run started, Parrish said she did it with her husband, and the memories and beauty of the Black Hills pull on her to return.
“We’ve never had an accident. I don’t even charge people for the run. They just have to show up and register. Most other tractor runs charge to participate. I think it’s enough they have to pay
for hotels and food,” Parrish said. “They do have to be licensed, though.”
The group had a laugh-filled lunch and then headed back to Custer, but several drivers indicated they want to spend a bit more time in Newcastle the next time they come through.
For the foreseeable future, the group plans to do some type of run every year because. Parrish said that people want to catch up with the Black Hills. Most years, they stick to the South Dakota Black Hills, but Newcastle was in everybody’s sights this year, and she also would like to extend a future run to Devils Tower. She admitted that could easily add another day or two to the event.

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