The Great Iowa State Fair and the Second Annual John Deere Extravaganza

State Fair show

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4400 East Oakwood Drive Des Moines, Iowa 50317

Way back in March of 1991 a small group of John Deere enthusiasts got together to toss around the idea of being part of the Iowa State Fair show. One day of the fair was to feature the classic restored tractors displayed on the grand concourse of the fairgrounds. Invitations were mailed to known tractor enthusiasts around the state of Iowa. The response was good and it was decided to form a committee to go ahead with the planning.

As all good things happen, it took a lot of work and thinking to get all the details worked out. How many people with tractors would we really get? Will we be able to set up in time? A lot of questions and wondering how things would go. Well, the day arrived. We were to have the tractors on the grand concourse by 8 a.m. ready for show. We made it with time to spare. It was a grand sight to see all of the restored tractors lined up wheel to wheel. Well, that was 1991.

Now it is spring of 1992 and the question has come up as to whether or not the State Fair show should be planned again. The response was overwhelming to do it again. The committee was formed and planning was started for one of Iowa's largest annual two cylinder shows. One thing that needed improvement over last year's show was the rope holders that were used around the tractors. We had rented this equipment the year before. With a little scrounging and donating, the pieces were found to make the rope posts. The plan was to make enough posts to hold the rope around 70 John Deere tractors. There had been 63 units in our show last year. The plan was for more this year. After a lot of cutting, welding, bolting and painting, the posts were finished. They looked great. How would they look on show day?

A prelude to the Iowa State Fair is a grand parade the night before the fair starts. Some of our two-cylinder enthusiasts had been part of the parade in 1991. They had pulled floats through the parade. This year they thought it would be nice to go through the parade as a unit. A dozen to fifteen tractors would be good. It was also decided to build a float that would represent the hobby of restoring two-cylinder tractors. A couple of fellows in the group went to work on that right away. Their work turned out a great little two wheeled trailer with a crankshaft, two rods with pistons and a flywheel mounted on it. Of course, it was painted John Deere colors.

Parade day is here. The first part of the Iowa State Fair is about to begin. The weather for the parade is great. We are unit 129, about half way back. A local TV station is going to broadcast the first hour and a half of the parade. We are hoping to get on TV this year. We had twelve tractors and the float ready to parade. The parade started at 6 p.m., right on time. We waited and waited. At 7:25 we moved into our position in the parade line. We didn't make TV this year. Maybe next year we can have an earlier position. There was a big crowd to watch the parade, and it went well for our group. No one had to be pulled through this year. Last year we had to help one tractor through.

State Fair show day is here. It is Wednesday, August 26. We are to have the tractors lined up and trailers parked by 7 a.m. We managed to get everyone in place at the proper time. We put out our rope holders and stretched the rope around the tractors. It all looked great.

With the rope in place, it was decided we needed a 'rope cop.' With this idea in mind, and a badge and water pistol in hand, one member of the group set out to find the perfect 'rope cop'. Well, the person was found and awarded the tools he needed to do his job.

Now if it would just warm up. This is August in Iowa. It is supposed to be hot. But, it didn't warm up. It was jacket weather all day. Despite the cool weather, the crowd was a big one.

We took count of the tractors. There were 67 John Deere tractors lined up wheel to wheel. With the green and yellow rope stands and yellow rope, it was impressive.

We had a good variety of tractors. There was a scale model 'D' all the way to a huge model 830 rice tractor. There were several industrial tractors which, by the way, are not green and yellow. The oldest tractor was the Waterloo Boy Overtime tractor. It was late teens or early twenties vintage. All of the tractors were beautifully restored.

This particular day of the fair was dedicated to older Iowans. A lot of those older folks told us stories about their experiences with early farm tractors and equipment. That is a lot of what restoring an old tractor is all about: swapping stories and meeting people.

At the end of this day, we were to move our tractors to another part of the grounds and continue the display through Sunday. Not all exhibitors could stay but, we ended up with about thirty tractors that did. Moving the tractors drew a lot of attention. There is something about a two-cylinder tractor that attracts attention. It must be the POP-POP of the exhaust.

Some of the owners stayed with their tractors for the duration of the fair. Here again, more stories were swapped.

The second annual Iowa State Fair extravaganza went well. After it was over it was resolved that this was a worthwhile event and there would be interest again for next year.

A special thanks goes out to those of you who restore old tractors and implements and then take the time to share the results of your labor with other people. Without you and your efforts, a show of this type would not be possible.

Submitted by the combined efforts of: Wendell Shellabarger, Steve Holand, Harold Shearer, Chuck McCain, Merle Hoppenworth, Paul Lehman. Photos by Max Bechtol.