P.O. Box 82 Armstrong, Illinois 61812
The third annual Historic Farm Days was held July 15-16, 1989 at the Middlefork River Forest Preserve of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District near Penfield, Illinois. We were blessed with excellent weather for the show, temperatures in the low 80's and nice breezes, a welcome change from the 100 degree temps at our first two shows.
The event is sponsored by the Forest Preserve District, and the I & I Antique Tractor and Gas Engine Club handles the operation of the exhibits and the demonstrations. The show got started in 1986 when the Forest Preserve Board voted to accept the concept of an Agricultural History Center to be located at the district's facility north of Penfield. The summer activity was to help gauge the public support of the idea as well as to better utilize the facilities which needed repairs to keep them from deteriorating further. In the winter of 1987, the members of the I & I Club along with district personnel began cleaning out the buildings, removing several very large trash piles and clearing underbrush that had been overtaking the former farmstead. After much hard work by both sides, the grounds were ready for the first show in July 1987. This included enclosing the two former cattle barns for machinery and miscellaneous storage, installing toilets, leveling and seeding the exhibit area, and constructing a loading dock. The proceeds from the event go to help fund the proposed Center.
The show grounds are divided into two areas, the main exhibit area in the oak grove and farmstead area, and the demonstration field. In the grove, the 1928 Western corn sheller was busy shelling ear corn, alternating with the two IHC threshing machines, one powered by the 1923 Baker steam engine owned by Herb Beckemeyer of Champaign, Illinois, the other by the Oliver-Hart Parr tractor of Ray Walsh, Bement, Illinois. There was also a crew baling straw with an IHC stationary baler from the straw pile at the threshers. These activities take place in the clearing in the center of the grove, with main exhibit area ringing the area, allowing those attending to view the machines on exhibit and see the demonstrations at the same time.
Across the road in the 12 acre wheat field the harvest crew kept the two combines going, both the 1928 Avery with 16 foot header, and 1942 John Deere No. 12A, 6 foot cut, ran flawlessly both days. Along with the combine demonstrations, Tim Wood kept his John Deere binder busy supplying the threshing crews with more bundles. Following the combines was a John Deere crossmount pickup baler baling up the straw.
The plowing demonstrations also take place in the field; with 8-10 tractors plowing at the same time it kept things interesting. By the end of the show the entire field had been plowed and was ready to be seeded to wheat again in the fall.
A new attraction this year was the half scale equipment of Russell Helms of Newman, Illinois. His Advance Rumely steam engine, Keck Gonnerman thresher, Minneapolis-Moline sheller, and Ann Arbor baler were a real treat to watch, and added greatly to the enjoyment of those attending the show. We are lucky to have the 12 acre demonstration field adjacent to the main show grounds, this gives us sufficient area for plowing and other field demonstrations. We feel that our show is a bit different, as we place an emphasis on the operating demonstrations, especially the combines and binders operating in the field both days. The Avery combine and Western corn sheller we use are on loan from the Urbana, Illinois Park District. They were first operated at the show in 1988 after a 30 year vacation since they were last used. It only took about eight hours of work to get the combine engine running and another 40 hours or so to get it ready to go to the field. The sheller required only removal of 30 years accumulation of animal nests and it was ready to go. These machines are in very good condition as they were always stored inside and received excellent care by the original owners.
This year we had 88 tractors, 35 gas engines, and about 50 pieces of farm equipment on display, plus 10 antique cars and trucks.
Other activities include pedal tractor pulls for the kids both days, a square dance group on Sunday afternoon, and a nice antique oriented flea market.
There is camping available at the Forest Preserve Campground nearby, and food and refreshments available on the grounds.
The Fourth Annual Historic Farm Days will be held July 14-15, 1990 and will feature IHC and McCormick-Deering products. Hope to see you all there.