New Holland Tractor Show wet, but not washed out

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[September 11, 2018] 

When a weather event occurs in the Gulf of Mexico, it is sometimes hard to realize that the event will at some point in time probably have an impact on central Illinois, but it does.

Late last week, the rain that was remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon arrived in central Illinois, and while in parts of Logan County the moisture was much needed, it also caused some difficulties for events that were going on in the area over the weekend.

Such was the case for the New Holland Memorial Tractor Show on Saturday. Organizer Ken Harnacke said that this is the first time in 13 years that weather forced a big change in the scheduled events for the day. The Kiddie Tractor Pull had to be canceled early in the day. While it was scheduled for the early afternoon, those who manage the pull needed advance notice, so Harnacke made the call Saturday morning to take that event off the schedule.

He said he had also made arrangements for a steam engine to be at the show that was coming from a distance away. He felt he had to contact the owner and cancel that attraction as well.

In the morning, the rain continued steadily, but it really didn’t drown out the entire day. While the atmosphere typically takes on festival-like qualities with members of the community coming out, and a long line of antique tractors on display, this year it was a bit different. The atmosphere around the show was more like a good-sized reunion of like-minded people who just enjoy getting together and ‘talking tractor.”

A few local tractors were on hand and those who brought them were happy to share their knowledge of the tractor with anyone interested. For the most part, the folks who did come out enjoyed a time of just hanging out in the Harnacke Building Co. building, sharing stories and enjoying cookies and coffee. Across the street, a ham and bean lunch was set up in the New Holland Fire House. At 11:30 a.m. the 30 or so fellas and five ladies gathered in the fire house for a hot lunch and more time spent visiting.

After lunch, Harnacke brought in a large nicely decorated cake he says is always part of the annual event. The cake was cut and everyone enjoyed a big serving. All attendees had the opportunity to enter a drawing for door prizes that were given away right before cake was served.

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While the day may not have been what it normally is, there was still a lot to take in at the show. Harnacke is an avid collector of tractors and farm equipment. Around his shop there are items of interest from garden tractors, to toys and antique corn-shellers. Inside the shop on Saturday was a special guest who had a display of his hand-crafted toy farm implements. He explained that he looks at old advertising pictures and then designs his toys according to the photo.

On this day, the prize display by the toy maker was of a Massey-Harris corn picker. This is the style of corn picker that would have been mounted as a wrap around on a tractor. The tractor would roll down the rows of corn and the picker would cut them off, pull off the ears, remove the corn shuck and throw those ears into a wagon hooked on behind. On his silver and green model, he had made the picker more or less self-propelled with a cage built in the middle of the picker with a seat for the driver.

Outside, a fun item was a toy tractor rocking horse. The battery powered kids riding tow had been mounted onto a wood rocking frame. Because the rider was a John Deere, the paint and decals on the rocker portion had been done in the same color scheme.

All around the area there are interesting antiques that relate directly to farming and the evolution of the industry. From horse collars used back in the day when ‘horse power’ came from a living breathing animal, to sickles and scythes for cutting weeds. Harnacke also has a large collection of signage including signs from gas stations such as Gulf, Sinclair and Texaco, to old license plates.

Another fun item in Harnacke’s collection is a dairy cow that is advertising Kraft Caramels.

At the end of the day, Harnacke also gave out a number of handmade wall hangings to participants. He said earlier in the day that he wasn’t sure how many people would end up coming, so he planned to give out what he had on hand and write IOU’s to those who didn’t get one.

He also had bright orange caps made that said New Holland Tractor Show, and made sure plenty of those were given out as well.

All in all, though the day was not what it was originally intended to be, it was very enjoyable for everyone there, and Harnacke showed very little disappointment in the way things went. After all, it is about celebrating the tractors. Whether it be a large crowd or a small one, the best part is getting together, sharing and being a part of a group who enjoys their collections and enjoys sharing them with others.

[Nila Smith]

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