FIRST THINGS

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The neatest thing I saw at two recent shows: a lot of kids. I noticed it first at the Prairie Village Jamboree, just outside Madison, S.D., and then a week later at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Both shows were kid magnets ... kids were everywhere I looked, all ages, from infants on up to teenagers. And these weren't the field-trippers escaped from school. Some of these kids were there with parents or grandparents or other relatives. They were on family vacations. And they were busy: Driving tractors. Scoping out engines. Hanging around steamers. Sticking their noses into everything. It was great! It's also the future of this hobby.

You don't have to hang around a show long to hear folks voice concerns about the increasing age of the membership. A youthful contingent is essential to both carry the group forward and breathe new life into it. But the young people with kids at home are simply too busy to really dig in and get involved. They're also less likely to have the disposable income the hobby demands.

It's up to the clubs, then, to take a different tack. Those of you who collect old iron and work hard to put on a show probably never thought of yourselves as public relations specialists. But if you want the shows to continue, and the hobby to thrive, it's up to you to rope in that next generation. Make sure kids and families feel welcome at your show. Visit with them; find out what they're interested in. Make sure there's room (and enthusiasm) for their interests at shows.

Maybe it's just as important for members to bring a young visitor to a show or a meeting as it is to set up an exhibit or help work the gate. Make it a priority to plant the seed, cultivate it and then be patient. In a few years, things can change. Kids grow a bit and develop their own old iron interests. They grow a bit more, and leave the nest, and suddenly their parents are looking for something to do. Above all, keep sharing your enthusiasm for this hobby: That's the spark that will keep these shows humming for years to come.

Leslie McManus, Editor lmcmanus@ogdenpubs.com