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John Deere tractor drive: A green wave hits Moline
By CINDY LADAGE
Illinois Correspondent

MOLINE, Ill. — About 60 tractor enthusiasts gathered outside the John Deere world headquarters in Moline, Ill., recently to inspect John Deere antique tractors of all makes and models.

John Boyens – driving a 1919 Velie Roadster with a jaunty cap on his head – followed the crowd of tractors as they wound their way through the busy Moline streets on their way to the TPC Deere Run Golf Course, where the John Deere Classic is held.

“This car belongs to a gentleman from Bettendorf, Iowa. This is the only 1919 Velie Roadster running. Its top speed is 35 miles per hour,” Boyens said.

The little car easily kept up with the tractors.

“These were built like a tank. Hitler liked Velies so a lot of them went to France and Germany,” Boyens added.

The Velie joined the John Deere family by way of marriage.

John Deere’s daughter, Emma, married Stephen H. Velie. The couple had five children, including Stephen Velie, Jr., who added the automobile connection to the Deere stables.

“Stephen Velie, Jr. went on to found the Velie Saddlery Co. of Kansas City, which made saddles, collars and harnesses for horses. With his brother, Willard, he helped launch the Velie Carriage Company of Moline, which made 21,000 buggies and surreys in 1907 alone. He later became vice president of Velie Motor Vehicles which manufactured an early automobile,” Brenda Kruse wrote in her The Green Girl Weekly, Nov. 6, 2000 column (www.bleedinggreen.com).

Boyens had just finished a 100-mile tractor ride across Iowa before loading up for the John Deere drive.

“In four days, we shared 60 lbs. of candy,” he reported, although none was thrown on the John Deere drive.

At the rear of the parade, Dick Bockwaldt pulled Jackie Williams and friends in a wagon she called “The People Pleaser.” The Pleaser provided rides to those who wanted to participate but were not tractor drivers.

Deere Co. workers greeted the parade as it pulled away from headquarters. People lined the streets to wave at the drivers and tractors. Moline police officers kept traffic at bay until the green wave arrived safely at the TPC destination.

At TPC Deere Run, parade participants were served lunch and two presentations. Neil Dahlstrom, Deere archivist, provided the history of the John Deere headquarters. Dahlstrom said that tours of the headquarters could be arranged through local dealerships.

Mark Salens of TPC shared the history of the golf course, once a horse farm owned by the Deere family. Along with the pertinent background, the event offered the opportunity to see the TPC course up close rather than just on television.

Once the presentations ended, riders and drivers mounted their tractors and autos to ride back to the parking lot, where a tractor show would ensue the following day. The Tractor Equipment Show commenced with a Memorabilia Auction at the headquarters, followed by a tractor and equipment auction with Aumann Auctions.

At the Stony Creek Inn in Moline, the 26th annual Plow City Toy Show entertained crowds, as well.

Enthusiasm for the event was contagious. Affixed on tractors everywhere were bumper stickers like Keep Your Tractor Polished and Your Flywheel Turning and Save a horse, ride a tractor. For information about more John Deere events, check out the website, www.JohnDeereCollectorsCenter.com

This farm news was published in the August 9, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

8/9/2006