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Tradition revived

Fran Brownell
Jerry and Kay Kinnamon (retired teachers from St. John) drag Main Street in a red 1957 Chevy.  Kay's dog (Izzy) was also along for the ride.

A 50-year-old tradition of dragging the square has been revived in St. John by 22-year-old Jacob Milton of Hudson who used Facebook and other social media sites to promote the event recently.

“I just threw out the idea and people showed up,” said Milton, a 2016 graduate of St. John High School and owner-operator of Farmer Milton Hay, a custom hay enterprise.

“Some brought out their vintage rides and others showed up in their daily drivers,” Milton said of the impromptu Saturday night events that took place March 28 and April 11.

“It was a blast,” said Milton. “At one time, there were 13 cars trying to get in.”

His primary motivation, according to Milton, was finding something to do to beat the boredom of COVID-19 isolation.

“I’d heard about drag-racing events in Larned and Great Bend,” Milton said. “So, I thought, why not revive ‘Dragging the Square’ right here at home?”

Milton said he learned about the St. John Square tradition from his parents, Ivan and Lisa Milton, who shared the fun as teenagers in the late 70s and early 80s and were game-in for the 2020 repeat performances.

“Back then, it was roll down the windows, blare music and don’t get caught by the cops,” Milton said he had been told.

“Times are a lot different now,” Milton said. “Only a few people did burn-outs, here and there.”

Three laps around the square equate to about a mile, but no one was really keeping track.

“There was a great turnout. I had a blast and everybody got a kick out of it,” Milton said. “There were smiles on everyone’s faces.”

For the events, Milton drove his metallic-gray 2015 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup with St. John photographer Dick Smith riding shotgun and recording COVID-19 history-in-the-making.

Among those spotted Dragging the Square were retired teachers Jerry and Kay Kinnamon with Jerry looking slick behind the wheel of their spiffy red 1957 Chevy, while Kay with her ShihTzu Izzy enjoyed the view from the passenger seat.

“It was fun to get out of the house—but not like the old days when there were no stop signs,” Kay said.

Teresa and Joel Miller of rural St. John were also among those in on the action, driving their 1963 aqua-blue Chevy pickup.

“We heard about and it brought back memories for both of us and we decided to drive on in. It was a lot of fun to see everybody,” Teresa said. “It was a positive distraction from Corona Virus and it was a fun way to see everyone while still practicing social distancing.”

SJHS Alumni Lawrence and Jennifer Gillespie were also among the cruisers, circling the square in their sky blue 57 Chevy, as were SJHS Alums Lori and Darrell Willinger enjoying the outing in their bright yellow four-wheel drive Jeep Rubicon.

For the 2020 events, Milton said he notified St. John Police in advance, which resulted in Officer Tori Perez joining in to run a couple of laps with the gang.

“There were more people than I expected,” Perez said. “Everyone seemed to be having a good time.”

As to whether or not there will be future episodes of “Dragging the Square,” Milton said to watch for his posts on Facebook or Twitter.