This year’s Half Century of Progress was staged from August 24-27 in Rantoul, Ill. The show is said to be the world’s largest working vintage farm show, and this particular event was dedicated to the memory of Darius D. Harms, who was the chairman of the past seven Half Century of Progress shows.
Darius passed away on July 21, 2016.
The idea behind the Half Century of Progress show was to promote antique equipment in conjunction with the Farm Progress Show that follows the Half Century of Progress. Rantoul, where the Half Century show is held, is not far from the Farm Progress location in Decatur.
The first Half Century of Progress Show was held on the weekend before the 50th anniversary Farm Progress Show near Henning, Ill., in 2003. The show was a hit, profiling equipment from 50 years earlier.
While many shows offer a chance to see antique farm equipment, only a handful give collectors a chance to use them in the field and the opportunity for visitors to watch the equipment harvest, plow and work the ground.
The Half Century of Progress show was moved to Rantoul’s former Chanute Air Force Base to ensure that weather would not ruin it. In 2003, the last few days of the Farm Progress Show were closed because they were deluged by rains and the farm couldn’t handle the visitors and equipment.
The Farm Progress Show has also since moved to a permanent location.
Each year, Darius worked tirelessly with others – like current co-chairs Russell Buhr and John Frederickson, along with farm broadcaster Max Armstrong – to bring the show to fruition.
Each Half Century has a feature, something special like Earthquake, Prairie tractors or record-setting plowing events by tractors and horses. (Is there anything more beautiful that a team of Belgians pulling plows in the turned soil?)
Visitors this year also had the chance to see a Case Steam engine pulling plows. This year field events included corn picking, soybean combining and field tillage, along with demonstrations.
Darius moved people to bring their best, and he had an effect that made them want to please him and do what they could to help make this show a success. After his death, it was unthinkable that the show he worked so hard to bring about would not go on.
Not only did the show go on, but Darius and his family in 2017 were recognized for their efforts.
On Saturday of the event, during the Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong show, Rantoul Mayor Chuck Smith offered Lois Harms and her family a Citizen Proclamation about Darius, a founding member of the show. Smith proclaimed that August 25, 2017, was Darius Harms Day.
Besides the Proclamation, that Sunday – which would have been Darius’ birthday – he was honored during the daily Parade of Power. On the grounds there was a stone in memory of Darius. The stone was surrounded by some of the equipment he so loved.
The story, though, that makes many think that Darius was watching over the show happened that Thursday, opening day. Max led a tractor drive through the countryside and the story went that when the tractor drivers passed the cemetery where Darius is buried, a sudden breeze came up and knocked Max’s hat right off his head.
Max confirmed the story with, “Yes, it happened! We were about 22 miles into the 30-mile ride and were about 70 yards from Darius’ grave when a wind gust came up and whipped the hat off and onto the ground. I knew better than to stop.”
For information about the 2019 show, log onto the Half Century website at www.halfcenturyofprogress.com
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 http://travelingadventuresofafarmgirl.com