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Illinois Thresherman show a hit; and a festival this month
The American Thresherman Assoc. annual Steam, Gas & Threshing Show is a big deal. This is one of the premier antique tractor and gas engine shows in the Illinois/Kentucky area.

This year’s show at the Perry County fairgrounds in Pinckneyville, Ill., was Aug. 15-19 and balmy weather greeted visitors, except for Thursday of the show, when a big storm ripped through the area bringing needed rain – but also some dangerous lightening. One strike hit a tree and almost a vendor, leaving burn marks on his tent. No one was hurt, though, and the cool air was a welcome reprieve.

This was the 53rd show put on by the association, which was organized in March 1959. Visitors come for the huge flea market, the antique and IPGA tractor pulls, parades and demonstrations – but mostly for the tractors.

In the show paper, president of the club, Josh Giacoma, stated the highlights of the show would feature “John Deere, Orphans, Oddballs and Lesser-Knowns.” There were many unusual tractors among the lesser-knowns.

One interesting example is what the owner called “The John Arras Special.” The tractor was built by blacksmith John Arras Jr. sometime in 1941-43, from a 3-foot oilfield pipe for the frame and a 1929 Model A four-cylinder engine.

The transmission was from a 1929 Model AA Ford truck and the rear end, from a 1925 White double reduction road truck.
The front end was a White truck cut apart, flipped upside down, shortened eight inches … then welded back together! The sign with it shared the rest of the story: “All other parts, brackets, front wheels were fabricated to fit.”

The tractor was restored by Jude Arras, the original builder’s son, and Cliff McNames. The tractor was sandblasted by Bob Cox and the project was assisted by Ron Quevbe. The group began their project in July 2010 and finished in June 2011.

A cool footnote to this is the tribute to their wives, who received special thanks for “putting up with Jude and Cliff for 10-1/2 months.”

There was also an unusual Star tractor owned by Kent and Carl Jansen. “This was a forerunner to the Indiana tractor. It was made by the Indiana Silo Co. and it is only one of two known to exist,” Kent said.

The John Deere display was hosted by the Southern Illinois Green Iron Club, which was celebrating Deere’s 175 years of production.
The club began when Mike English, Ivan Timmerman, Al Wesselman and Regi Detmer started talking about the need for a club in southern Illinois. It was established in 2009.

At the Thresherman show, the gathering was in honor of Detmer, the club president who lost his battle with cancer. Although not physically at this show, his memory lived on in the members of the club and family, who rallied to bring the JD Bs to Pinckneyville.
The goal of the Southern Illinois Iron Club was to have a special exhibit of 175 Model B John Deere tractors. At the opening of the show, the promoters had received pledges for Bs from Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois.

One belonged to Mark Berkel, who helped gather the Bs at this year’s show. With a wide front and back end, Mark’s B was on steel wheels. Although the number was a bit less than hoped for, it was a spectacular sight.

Another member honored at this year’s show was Mike Beck, who passed away from lung cancer in June. A longtime member, his 1930 Baker tractor was used for the show button, and his button had been presented to him in May.

A new addition to this year’s show was a shed to house stationary engines and other displays. At the conclusion of the show, it was used to house steam traction engines. The building is 60-by-180-feet and was constructed over the footprint of the old stationary engine shed.

Besides the usual tractor displays, the show included blacksmithing, veneer milling, a miniature railroad and steam traction engines. Demonstrations also included corn shelling, threshing, baling, horsepower threshing, plowing and an antique car swap meet. Convertibles from 1960 and older were the featured cars; this event was sponsored by the Egyptian Antique Auto Club.

Although this show is over, there is a Thresherman Fall Festival the third weekend in October. Call 618-664-9474 or log onto www.americanthresher for more information.

Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication.