| May 2002

ZOLFO SPRINGS, Fla. - The first 'Pioneer Park Days' in the early 1960s drew a dozen local guys in pick ups with a few old gas engines displayed on their tailgates, and a vintage OilPull tractor.

This year's official 34th annual show drew 100,000 people from across the United States and Canada, more than 400 tractor and engine exhibitors and another 500 vendors, swelling this tiny central Florida farming community of only 1,650 to nearly bursting.

Gas engine enthusiasts Earle Nickerson and Tony Ullrich, both of Wauchula, Fla., are credited with starting the gathering, helped along by Earle's son Norm.

'I never thought it would get this big,' Tony says of the event, 'and it's gotten as big as it can get at this location.' The long-time venue, 105-acre Pioneer Park, is dotted with 50-foot-tall palm and pine trees and nestled along the pretty Peace River that winds through town.

Tony is proud to have started the steam table at the park, used by model engine exhibitors to power their machines, and to have provided organizational help during the early years, working with his friend, Earle, who introduced him to Rumely tractors.

'Earle brought the first one I ever saw down here from New York state about 25 years ago, and I helped him with it,' Tony, a Wauchula native, says. 'As far as I'm concerned, Rumely is sort of the Cadillac of tractors.'