The folks who claim “bigger isn’t better” haven’t been to the Half Century of Progress show. In the world of antique farm equipment, the Half Century show redefines the notion of “big.” Sprawling over hundreds of acres at a former Air Force base, the show attracts big crowds, big tractors and big implements.
The show would be a natural in Texas, where they say everything is bigger, but in fact it’s held in Rantoul, Illinois. For one week, thousands of people pour into the town from all over the country. What brings them? The chance to see old iron in action.
With a unique facility (When was the last time you saw a daily tractor parade on an airport runway?) and hundreds of acres for demonstrations, the Half Century show is a powerful magnet for old iron. People come from all over the U.S. for the opportunity to put antique tractors, steam engines, combines and implements through their paces. There are crops to harvest and land to work.
The show’s schedule also lends a unique allure. The Half Century show is held only every other year; you can’t build it in into your annual show rotation. And a lot of things can change in two years. Maybe displays you remember will be back next time; maybe not. There is a tangible feeling in the air that you’re seeing something special, that what you see on any given day may never occur again in quite the same way.
And then there’s the flag. The world’s biggest flying American flag careens over the grounds, supported by two cranes. It is a mesmerizing focal point. If there is any breeze at all, the flag is moving, lazily wrapping in on itself, unfurling, heaving, buckling, puffing, sagging and rising, as if it were a living thing.
Every show has its own personality, but the Half Century of Progress truly stands in a class by itself. Read more about the show!
As we wind down another year, our thoughts turn to family and friends and memories of days gone by. The people in the old iron hobby are among the best in the world, and it is an honor and a pleasure to call you our friends. All of us at Farm Collector send our warmest greetings for a merry Christmas and happy New Year! FC
Leslie C. McManus is the editor of Farm Collector magazine. Contact her via email.