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Views and opinions: Getting ready for the Half Century of Progress 2019

What Russell Buhr referred to as his idea of “the greatest show on Earth” at a recent planning meeting will be back in the Midwest on August 22-25. While the Ringling Bros. catchphrase may be swiped in this case, the motto “the world’s largest vintage working farm show” is not.

The Half Century of Progress is a vintage farm show held before the Farm Progress Show. The first Half Century of Progress Show took place the weekend before the 50th anniversary Farm Progress Show near Henning, Ill., in 2003.

The show was such a hit that it has been held every other year since. The Half Century of Progress is a great way to look back and see farming of yesterday, held at the Former Chanute Air Force Base that is the current Rantoul Airport in Illinois.

The old runways with all that concrete make a great place to stage a show and with close to 300 acres of farmland, there is plenty of room for fieldwork during this mega antique equipment show.

The show offers daily demonstrations, tractor pulls, and a tractor drive. Max Armstrong has been around for it since the beginning. Originally from Indiana, the longtime farm broadcaster says, “I’m looking forward to seeing more unusual equipment than ever.

“There is always something that makes your jaw drop. You’ll turn to the guy next to you and say, ‘I’ve never seen one of those before!’ and I’m also looking forward to a bigger crowd than ever. We meet the nicest people in Rantoul.”

Each Half Century of Progress there is a theme that makes the show special. This time it’s “Harvest Brigade.” Collectors may want to check their sheds and see what vintage equipment is in working order, and think about bringing it to Rantoul.

If it’s not in order, there is still time to find the needed part or do a bit of work to get the piece ready to roll. At this show, collectors have the opportunity to actually take that equipment and use it in the field. While they may only be able to make a pass or two, it is still a wonderful opportunity to put vintage equipment into action.

“Bring threshing harvest equipment,” Russell and John Fredrickson encourage. Really – any kind of harvest equipment is welcome.

Start planning now – although this event may seem far away, according to John, campgrounds are filling up. There are three campgrounds available in the area: Prairie Pines Campground in Rantoul, 217-893-0438; D&W Lake Camping and RV Park in Champaign, 217-356-3732; and Middlefork Forest Preserve in Penfield, 217-595-5692.

A dry camping option is available in Rantoul at PBJ RV/Trailer Storage. Check the show website at for more details and hotel options.

Along with planning lodging, reserving a golf cart may also be in order; call 866-275-2742 now. For those who plan to bring their own transportation, that works fine; just be aware there is a $30 fee (good for all days of the show) in addition to the admission fee.

The cost to attend the show is $15 per day, or $30 for a four-day pass. If kids or grandkids are coming along, there is a minimum age of 16 required to drive both golf carts and equipment on the grounds.

August is just around the corner and will be here sooner than anyone can imagine. Plan now!

(Note: In my last column on April 10 there was a photo of two people holding a coverlet, whom I incorrectly identified; they are actually Mike Sparks and Jackie Church.)


Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication. Learn more of Cindy’s finds and travel in her blog, “Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl,” at


THIS PHOTO WAS TAKEN at a past Half Century of Progress. It is an example of a harvest machine that may be seen at the 2019 show, where “Harvest Brigade” will be the theme.