The farmers are coming.
Remember last year tractorcades and blockades Noisy rallies and mechanical monsters drag racing on the Mall. A month-long winter-time spectacle that attracted the attention of the nation.
Well, this year, things are supposed to be different. For one thing, the farmers only plan to be here two weeks.
The American Agriculture Movement (AAM) also is not planning any traffic-clogging parades, and instead of tractors there will be mostly pickup trucks, mobile homes and moonshine stills -- four of them, to show the city folks how farmers want to make gashohol out of their grain.
During meetings with police officials over the last several months, AAM organizers said they do not plan to recreate last year's chaos that led police to erect a barricade around more than 600 tractors that camped on the Mall.
The tractorcade was a once-in-a-lifetime dead," Virginia farmer R. O. Updike said yesterday. "This year the crowd is smaller . . . but the farmers are serious about this thing."
The AAM said it wxpects about 5,000 marchers in each of two parades from the White House to Capitol Hill next Thursday and Friday. Police have given the group permission to bring only 12 tractors into the city, and they will be allowed to park their trucks along the Mall, but not disrupt any rush hour traffic.
Rallies in three parts of Virginia tonight and a gathering Sunday night in Warrenton are planned to fire up the participants before their two-week lobbying effort here begins.
Police say they do not expect any caravan-style assaults on the city when the farmers begin arriving here Monday, which is the George Washington birthday holiday, nor on Tuesday or Wednesday, when the farmers will hold a convention at the Commerce Department.
The AAM organizers have not scheduled any events for the second week of their planned protest of low farm prices and federal restrictions on private production of gasohol.
"They said they'll be papering Capitol Hill" with their lobbying, a police official said.
Three of the four moonshine stills will be placed along the Mall, where farmers will make gasohol to fuel their tractors. The fourth still, planned for Lafayette Park in front of the White House, will not be in operation because of its proximity to the White House, officials said.