By DEBORAH BEHRENDS
SUBLETTE, Ill. — Now that the dust has settled in Sublette, organizers estimate nearly 7,000 people visited the community of 500 for the 31st annual Sublette Farm Toy and Antique Tractor Show on March 16-17.
“We don’t even really have to advertise,” said organizer Don Dinges.
He said this is only the second year the show has run for the entire weekend; prior to 2012, it was a Sunday-only event. “The two-day show works out really well,” Dinges explained.
More than 300 vendors sold farm toys, crafts and more. More than 200 John Deere tractors – from lawn tractors to field models – were on display. Each year a different brand is featured.
“Next year, Allis-Chalmers and Massey Harrison/Massey Ferguson tractors will be featured. In 2016, Minneapolis-Moline collectors will have their national convention here,” Dinges said. “They bring tractors from as far away as Texas. That’s a really big show when they come.”
He said a few Oliver tractors were lined up in front of the community’s old Oliver dealership as well. “The Oliver collector’s club celebrated the 20th anniversary of its formation right here at our show,” he said.
The event included a pancake and sausage breakfast served by the Sublette volunteer firefighters, and displays of a large operating O-scale train layout and several miniature farm layouts. A free shuttle on Sunday transported visitors from building to building and food stands were operated by the Maytown Comets and Sub-Let Indians 4-H clubs.
“We try to add some kind of new feature every year. Along with the train and the miniature farm layouts, we had the State Police rollover vehicle and the Illinois State University solar car on display,” Dinges said.
The show includes a silent auction with items donated by area residents, businesses and show vendors. Funds raised by the show benefit Sublette in a variety of ways, Dinges said.
“We usually do four or five scholarships. We take care of the schools. We’ve bought computers in the past. We fund our Little League and T-ball teams. We give to fundraisers for families or schools.
“All the money stays in the community,” he said. “By the time we’ve paid everything, we should make $8,000 to $9,000.”
The entire production is put together annually with more than 150 volunteers. “We’re very fortunate that not just Sublette people work. We have a lot of others that come in and help us,” Dinges explained.
“We’ve done this for so many years, we don’t even have a formal meeting from one year to the next. We just make a few phone calls; everybody knows their job.”