Vintage Garden Tractor Club Off and Running
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But the crowd was sold.
"I was amazed at the number of people who stopped at our display," Jim says. "My son, Jim Jr., spent the better part of two days talking to people about these tractors."
The success of the club's showing at Baraboo persuaded the members to attend the Rock River Thresheree held over Labor Day weekend. Nearly 120 vintage garden tractors were shown at Rock River.
"It was quite an amazing sight," Jim says. "We met some of the other members, and had a great time."
After a winter when garden tractors were bought, sold and restored, the club was ready to hit the road in the spring of '96.
"Because of the impressive showing at Rock River, offers were coming in from other clubs that wanted to feature us at their shows," Jim says. The first show where VGTCOA was featured was at Eaton, Ohio. More than 100 tractors were exhibited.
VGTCOA was not featured at the '96 Rock River show, but club founder Joe Smith felt another good showing there would do wonders for the club.
"We drew 135 tractors at the '96 show, and he was right," Jim says. "Offers began coming from clubs all over Wisconsin and Illinois, all wanting to feature the VGTCOA at their shows. We had to turn many of them down, because we wanted to get to other parts of the country as well."
Club members were clearly ready to hit the road.
"The Plainfield, Wis., show was the first featured show of the '97 show season," Jim says. Members came from Oregon, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Canada. Fully 180 garden tractors were registered. The VGTCOA simply overtook the showgrounds.
"The amount of interest these tractors were generating was remarkable," Jim adds. "A plowing contest was scheduled for Saturday. Although it was raining fairly hard, we decided to go on with it. We had about 50 spectators standing in the rain, watching. It was just incredible."
Two years later, he says, people are still talking about the garden tractors at Plainfield. "Over Labor Day weekend in 1997, we attended the show in Escanaba, Mich.," he says. "We didn't draw as many tractors, but our club exhibit was voted best of show."
Success on the road was matched by the organization itself.