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
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
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
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
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.