Farm Collector Blogs > Aussie Trek Across America

July 10 to 12: Illinois

by Ron Bywaters

Tags: road trip, trek across America, tractor drive, Illinois,

Day 14

The weather started out overcast and looked a bit threatening but did not rain, to the relief of the I&I Antique Tractor and Gas Engine Club’s Historic Farm Days organizers who do not want the tracks to turn to mud.

The ladies took advantage of the offer by Lois Harms to take them shopping in Rantoul, Ill., while the men stayed behind and Ron, Peter and Neville chatted with the press. We have had excellent response from the media everywhere we have gone — word seems to spread like wildfire and here at Penfield there is a large contingent of press.

When the 1 p.m. parade started on this second day, Cumber was invited to be lead tractor and there was quite an array of large TV cameras focused on our tractors. There are quite large spectator stands at the starting area which is also used for activities such as tractor pulls etc. These stands were packed and when the parade was due to start, the U.S. national anthem was played while everyone stood to attention — it was a very stirring moment. The Americans are indeed very patriotic people, as well as being extremely friendly and welcoming.

Attendances on this second day of the four day event were high, with a huge number of golf buggies driving around the grounds at any time. Tractors double as “horses” in pulling sponsored covered people movers so no one has to walk further than they desire.

This was quite a relaxing day and gave members of the group a chance to check out the many exhibits or take the short trip into Rantoul. Late in the afternoon, Bill and Patty Swope from Perrysburg visited the Farm Days event and we caught up to share a meal. Patty’s mum Margaret once again showed her wonderful cooking abilities by sending chocolate chip cookies for each of our group.

Day 15

Day three of the Historic Farm Days started out looking dismal and very soon the rain came down in torrents and everyone found an indoor place to shelter.

By the time it eased up in the early afternoon, the tracks had all well and truly turned to mud and it was mid afternoon before the daily parade could be run. Once the sun came out, the crowds reappeared in large numbers and the fun continued.

After the daily parade of tractors, the various classes of tractor-pull commenced and ran until dusk, then the Steam Engine Spark Show was held at dusk — the fuel used is evidently sawdust and when lit up it sends up a plume of bright orange flame — a truly spectacular sight against the night sky. Then it was time for the fireworks, an amazing display and a truly wonderful end to a very full day.

Day 16

Sunday morning was a bright and sunny and cool, and once again the grounds were thronged with visitors, though not as many as the previous day.

Both the local churches, Catholic and Methodist, had services and three of our ladies attended the gospel music service at the Methodist church where there were several talented musicians in attendance, led by local celebrity Marvin Lee. None of this group read written music but gave us wonderful renditions of many favorites on instruments including the piano accordion and mouth organ, also a steel guitar, all in all seven musicians and vocalists.

The local who represents “Abraham Lincoln” so well joined in and gave a rendition of “Just an Old Rugged Cross” on a saw — quite amazing! In real life this gentleman is Mr. Gerald Bestrom from Hastings, Mich. We hear that he is soon to be entered in an Abraham Lincoln look-alike competition. We cannot see how anyone else could possibly look so authentic in the part.

The last day’s parade was really special as “Big Bud” was primed up and ready to roll as lead vehicle with the Chamberlains next in line. Second up was Sherry Schaefer, editor of the Heritage Iron magazine, who was driving Darius Harms’ Chamberlain Canelander, a rarity in these parts. Ron took the passenger seat to get a good vantage point for taking video of the event.

As the afternoon wore on, more and more of the stallholders disappeared, and there was a steady stream of vehicles towing tractors moving out of town. Our group was able to host a small group of people who we have come to know over the past four days and who have all gone out of their way to be helpful. We were indeed fortunate to have genuine fried chicken from Rube’s Country Cooking, who was a stallholder at this event. This was an opportunity to say thank you to these helpful people who have made this stopover so enjoyable.

See photos and read more on Ron’s website,