Old Gas Tractor Association
Overview of the John Deere display area and show tent at Mid-Minchigan Old Gas Tractor Show in Oakley, Michigan.
Sec. Bill Koski, Pres. P.O. Box 104 Oakley, Michigan 48649
The year was 1974, the setting was the fertile heartland of Michigan known as the Saginaw Valley, and the first chapter of the story was written by eight local farmers who had an affinity for the machines and methods of the early years of mechanized agriculture. The first official gathering was not much more than a threshing bee on the farm of one of the founding members with casual passersby stopping in to visit and reminisce. A good meal was shared, and at the end of the day of hard work and fun the men involved realized that not only had they enjoyed themselves, but their efforts were also appreciated by those neighbors and friends who had noticed the nostalgic scene from the road and joined in the fun themselves. These eight men, who all had roots in the era of the binder and threshing machine, were well aware that this scene was rapidly disappearing from the American landscape, and that generations to come would never know the excitement they had known as youngsters when the crew moved from farm to farm to harvest the season's bounty. The children of the future would never feel the thrill of seeing that gigantic Huber tractor pulling the separator up their own driveway when it was their turn to thresh. They would miss the sweet smell of the grain as they pitched bundles into the churning maw of the Belle City thresher, oblivious to the tired muscles, the hot sun and the chaff sticking to the sweat on their forearms. All this passed through the minds of these gentlemen as they reflected back on their day's work, and then the idea was born! Why not make this an annual affair so that succeeding generations could relive the memories just as they had done that day?
And so it was agreed, next year in August, they would once again drag out the old retired tractors and machinery and put on a show, not just for themselves but for the public as well. With that agreement history was made; the birth of the Mid-Michigan Old Gas Tractor Show had taken place. They formed a club under that name and began planning for the next year.
Now that they had a goal, the various members set about gathering up long-since discarded equipment and tools to expand their operation. Auction sales were attended and fence rows and junk-yards were scoured for their hidden treasures. They began to realize how much fun it was to find and restore the rusting hunks of iron that had once been some farmer's pride and joy. Most would seek out the particular brands that they had been associated with in their youth, or perhaps one that someone else had that was the object of their envy years ago. Their efforts proved to be contagious as many others in the community found themselves inspired to roll that old John Deere out from behind the corncrib and see if they couldn't get that flywheel to budge once again, with a little oil and a lot of patience. The fever had started to spread!
The rest, as they say, is history. When August rolled around and the time was right, they gathered again, and the public reaction proved their theory to be correct. There was a great appetite for the spectacle they had presented. Many others who had quietly harbored a love for the old tractors and machines they left behind when they left the farm or advanced with the progress that has taken place, joined the fledgling organization and added their time and talents to the enterprise.
As the years passed by the size of the Club grew by leaps and bounds and soon they realized that they had outgrown that small field where it all started, and the board sought and acquired a 20 acre parcel to be used as their show grounds in order to accommodate the throngs of spectators and exhibitors that were now attracted each year. That 20 acres was soon expanded to 40 and even then additional land was leased for spectator parking. This was truly an event driven by demand from their target customer, the American family.
In the 22 years that have passed since, the Mid-Michigan Old Gas Tractor Show has become one of the largest expositions of its kind in the north-eastern part of the country. With a broad base of activities everyone can find entertainment to suit their tastes, starting with the delicious pancake breakfast each morning, a parade that often takes two hours to pass, tractor pulls of many categories, sawmill and complete wood finishing area, threshing, plowing, crosscut saw contest, live music and other attractions too numerous to mention. We typically have over 750 registered exhibitors who form the building blocks of the show by bringing their machinery to display and demonstrate. One of the secrets of our continuing success at MMOGTA is our emphasis on dynamic, working displays as opposed to static, museum type exhibitions. We not only want you to bring your machinery, we encourage you to use it in some of our many activities. We feel that spectators come away with a much greater understanding of our agricultural heritage when they witness our hardware performing the tasks for which it was originally intended. This also provides a much more satisfying experience for the many collectors who bring their prized displays to spacious show grounds. We also include expansive areas relating to other interests including arts and crafts, flea markets, quilting, spinning, bingo, petting zoo and children's play area.
The other ingredient in this recipe for success is the more than 200 families making up one of the hardest working memberships found anywhere. The wide ranging talents and trades of our group have enabled us to develop our property into the park-like facility it is today. Combined with the ever-expanding complement of on-site stationary engines and machines we've acquired, we think we can present you with one of the most enjoyable experiences of this type you'll find anywhere.
Also we are proud to announce that we will be the host of the 1998 annual show of the IHC Collectors Club of Michigan, Chapter 11. And, we have submitted our presentation and bid for the National Red Power Roundup Show in 1998. With a lot of hard work this will be the show of the decade for us. Hope to see you there.
Our sincere hope is that you'll have opportunity to join us August 16-18, 1996 in Oakley, Michigan, as we celebrate our 22nd year of FUN!!