To be successful, an antique farm show needs a hook of some kind to draw a crowd. Usually, enthusiasts display a few of their favorite tractors and equipment at a few shows. Typically, they choose shows close to home — gas prices being what they are — or shows featuring a brand from their collection.
The Morrow County (Ohio) Antique Tractor & Equipment Assn. goes one better. Although their annual antique farm show features antique farm equipment, the name of the event — “Farm Days” — gives no clue that the event showcases vintage iron. That way, members believe, they may draw in the entire local community, not just old iron aficionados.
Several years ago, a few area tractor owners decided to hold an antique farm show in Morrow County. Starting in 1990, a free, two-day event was held in a parking lot in Mount Gilead. The show included round and square dancing and raffles. An enthusiastic response encouraged the group to find a location where it might hold a real show. Ultimately, the organizers settled on the Morrow County Fairgrounds.
Today, the antique farm show includes all the events you’d expect: threshing, husking/shredding, shelling corn, chopping corn for silage, arts and crafts. Entertainment offerings include a tractor parade, tractor pulls, and demolition derbies — lawn mower, pickup truck and combine. An enormous consignment sale held on Saturday draws a big crowd; proceeds are used to defray show expenses.
The Morrow County show takes particular interest in young people. Loren Fulton, who was president in 2011, believes young people should be as involved in the show as their elders are. “It wouldn’t be true Farm Days if the children weren’t included,” he says.
Today’s young people have no idea what farm life was like just 50 years ago, he notes. Many rural residents don’t farm, and those who do would not recognize farm practices of the past. Moreover, today’s farm machinery bears no resemblance to machinery used decades ago. And farm operations have changed: Young people today simply cannot relate to a time when every farmer had a few cows, a few hogs and chickens, and maybe a few head of sheep; used small equipment and farmed far fewer acres.
Accordingly, the club works overtime to make the show meaningful to kids and help them feel a part of the festivities. Budding singers and dancers are invited to perform on a stage, providing entertainment for visitors who take a break on benches under shade trees. And kiddy tractor pulls are a big hit for participants and bystanders.
In 2011, the club expanded its efforts. Volunteers designed and built a wooden cow outfitted with a container of milk. Four rubber teats were attached. Youngsters sit on either side of the cow, squirting milk into the bucket and listening to the “music” made as it pings the bottom of the bucket, just as many of us former farm kids did so many years ago. Today, almost no one milks by hand. This experience gives children a chance to participate in a traditional daily chore performed by many a farm child.
Then the club reconsidered demonstrations. Although demonstrations showing how farmers once harvested grain and forage are held daily during the show, kids rarely attend those events. “The machines are too big and noisy, dusty and dirty for them,” Loren says. “And they often can’t get close enough to see or participate in any way.”
So the group took a different tack. Knowing that several members have collections of scale-model toys, Loren asked them to bring in selected items. Those pieces were set up in a display, showing children what the equipment does on a small scale. He thought kids might relate better to a toy display.
Club members jumped at the chance. Two rows of showcases were set up in a building. Several collectors brought models to use in actual farm scenes. The club even assembled a display of a threshing ring. And, in keeping with the show’s feature of Ohio-built equipment, a complete Huber setup was displayed. Loren brought his own display, including a model steam traction engine, a Roto-Rack separator and a grain wagon. But he wanted more.
Happily, the Huber Machinery Museum is just 20 miles east of Mount Gilead. The museum came to the rescue, lending a model with a steel-wheeled Huber gas tractor (complete with canopy) for the power source. The tractor was belted to a Roto-Rack separator, and a steel-wheeled wood wagon was loaded with sheaves to feed the thresher, which was hitched to another steel-wheeled tractor. On the opposite side was a grain bed wagon about half-full of “grain” (actually, birdseed) and at the rear was a large straw rack.
One of the most difficult things to try to explain to young people is the concept of steam power. They have nothing with which to relate. Very few homes today have a whistling teakettle. Fewer have pressure cookers or canners with a spitting, sputtering weight bobbling atop the unit when under pressure.
Kids simply have no concept of the power of steam. Many wonder why threshers needed to pull along a wagon filled with water; it seems strange to them. They do not know that when water boils, rapid evaporation quickly reduces the water level in the engine’s reservoir. The reservoir had to be refilled continually to prevent the engine from running low and causing an explosion. More difficult is trying to explain to them how dangerous those big pieces of equipment were in an era when there were no OSHA rules to keep farmers safe and prevent injuries.
Other exhibits displayed tractors from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. This special attraction drew not only youngsters but adults as well. “If antique tractor shows are to survive,” Loren says, “the younger folks are going to be the ones keeping them going. If kids don’t go to shows or can’t relate to what’s going on, they will not become part of the cadre of adults who keep things going.” With efforts like his, the Morrow County Farm Days show will continue for years to come. FC
For more information:
– Loren Fulton, 4145 Roberts Rd., Caledonia, OH 43314; (740) 389-2491.
– Morrow County Antique Tractor & Equipment Assn. 2012 Farm Days, Aug. 3-5, Morrow County Fairgrounds, St. Rt. 42.
James N. Boblenz grew up on a farm near New Bloomington, Ohio. He now lives in Marion, Ohio, and is interested in antique farm equipment, particularly rare and lesser-known tractors and related items. Email him at email@example.com.