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Head off to Illinois for Half Century of Progress 2013
Wrenching Tales
“Come feel the Earthquake in Rantoul,” quips Darius Harms, chair of the Half Century of Progress Show Aug. 22-25, in Rantoul, Ill.
This year, the show features the mega four-wheel-drive Earthquake tractor that will shake the ground as it performs field demonstrations. The Half Century celebrates 50 years of farming and will focus on machinery and implements from 1963.

“This is our 10th anniversary and the sixth show. This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the International 506 and 806, the D21 Allis Chalmers and 5010 John Deere, among others,” Harms explained.

While powerful tractors in their day, the Earthquake takes the cake, powered by a 12V Detroit engine, standing 18 feet wide and 14 feet high. Harms is excited to introduce it to the ever-growing crowd attending this show every two years. In 2011 the Half Century Show drew more than 100,000 people to the former Chanute Air Force Base.

“Earthquake was built by Dave and John Curtis; they were the engineers on this project, and Dave Curtis (94) plans to come to Rantoul,” Harms noted, adding Earthquake was made by Rite Manufacturing of Great Falls, Mont.

Earthquake is one of three 750-hp models built and the only one that remained in the United States; the other two went to Canada. Earthquake was purchased by Doerfler Farms in Oregon and Harms said its name came about after a small earthquake hit the area – and the Doerfler brothers felt its sensation was similar to the tractor shaking the ground as it plowed the field.

Russell Buhr of the Half Century Show said another focus in 2013 will be on seeding technology over the years. “We are going to till and demonstrate planting, fertilizing and spraying the old way,” he said.

Planting demonstrations will start with horse-drawn, extending to two-row and check-row planters, all the way to the present age, representing how technology has changed. Crop harvest and plowing will offer other views of vintage farm equipment from different eras. Equipment will include corn pickers, combines, tractors, plows, grain trucks and more.

The show opens Aug. 22 with agricultural broadcaster Max Armstrong leading the Half Century Tractor Ride that departs for Rantoul, en route to Gifford, Penfield, Dailey, Flatville and ends back at the beginning. Drivers will travel through the California Ridge Wind Farm.

Each day at 8 a.m. there is the raising of the World’s Largest Flying Flag and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

Harms said each day Armstrong will lay off the first row to start the field demonstrations.

Buhr said another big draw are the horse and sanctioned tractor pulls; Thursday night leads off with the horse pulls. Friday offers IPA and local classes with Saturday night’s IPA, ITPA and Local Classes. Saturday night’s pulls end with Jansen Farms’ dramatic Steam Tractor Spark Show.

Part of what makes this show so great is that exhibitors pull out the stops to bring the most unusual and different equipment ever made. One example at the 2011 show was Rodney Bergman’s Allis Chalmers WD45, which was steered from a wooden wagon his dad and uncle put together.

Along with static displays and fieldwork, there are special challenges. “The John Deere group is attempting to get the oldest 5010 and the oldest 110 John Deere lawn and garden tractor. There will be prizes for both,” Harms said.

On Saturday agricultural broadcaster Orion Samuelson will be signing his new book, You Can’t Dream Big Enough. Following that, Samuelson and frequent broadcast partner Armstrong will be onstage together. On Sunday morning there will be a Gospel Hour for attendees.

“The Half Century of Progress came about,” Harms explained, “as a way to help the Farm Progress show celebrate their 50th anniversary because it was 10 miles from the first show, held at Armstrong. We planted corn and had tractors from 1953 to 2003. There were two tractors, one on each side, leading up to the gate at the Progress Show. One thing led to another.”

Harms credits that first show bringing so much attention that it has kept going and expanded in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011. “People went wild over the plowing and harvesting,” he said.

The I&I Antique Tractor and Gas Engine Club and village of Rantoul have teamed up to return this biennial event to the area. The 2013 premier sponsors are Ben Tire Distributors and Neal Tire and Auto Service. Information about bringing equipment, the tractor drive and more is available at www.halfcenturyofprogress.org

Equipment operators will begin each day with a safety meeting and drivers will be required to have a safety certificate and abide by the 5 mph speed limit. “With approximately 3,000 vehicles running around, safety must be ensured. Field marshals will be on hand,” Harms pointed out. “You have to remember that 80 percent or more (people) coming didn’t make their living with this equipment.”
The cost for the show is $10 per person or $25 for all four days, and $20 to register golf carts and other transport vehicles. Entry is free for exhibitors.

Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication.
8/16/2013