PEORIA, Ill. — Guests and vendors attending the 2017 Greater Peoria Farm Show (GPFS) will find opportunities for entertainment in the downtown and riverfront sectors of the city, located within walking distance of the Peoria Civic Center, host site for the show.
Among the attractions is the nearby Doug Oberhelman Caterpillar Visitors Center at 110 SW Washington Street. Those interested in the early history of CAT agriculture, grading and earthmoving equipment might want to budget an hour or two of their Peoria itinerary to examine the Veerkamp Family California Collection of historic and rare tractors currently on display at the CAT Visitors Center.
The exhibit consists of eight antique Holt, Best and early CAT machines painstakingly collected by the Veerkamp family, namesakes of California-based Veerkamp Engineering, that will be on display at the Visitors Center through June 20, 2018.
“The exhibit was transported cross-country to be here,” said Susan Morten, guest relations manager for the Visitors Center. “Our guests had requested more antique machine exhibits, so we decided to bring in this collection to answer that need. Since it opened, our (attendance) numbers are up for the same time over last year, so that proves the exhibit has been highly popular.”
The exhibit was launched among great fanfare in June, with an outdoor antique CAT machinery drive-in that showcased early company models owned by members of the Antique Caterpillar Machine Owners Club. It will close with a return by the club for its annual meeting next June.
Among the Veerkamp collection are rare machines such as a 1929 Caterpillar Expo 20, the first tractor created by CAT without using previous Holt and Best designs. A 1928 CAT 60 logger, one of only 60 logging cruisers sold across the globe, is also among the collection, as is a 1931 CAT Diesel 65, the company’s first diesel track-type tractor.
Also included are earlier machines, including a Holt T-35 prototype, which went into production as part of CAT’s first line in 1925.
A CAT Expo 15, circa 1929, is the only known expo model known to be in existence. Painted white, the Expo 15 was created exclusively for display at county fairs and other public exhibitions.
Rivaling the model’s rareness is a 1919 Best 25 Tracklayer, of which only 300 were built. This model was rescued via helicopter airlift from an abandoned California mine and was documented for a widely-viewed YouTube video by Matt Veerkamp and Shawn Stover.
In addition to the Veerkamp Collection exhibit, on Nov. 29 the CAT Visitors Center will unveil a new gallery exhibit on the history of the Holt Co., one of the predecessors of CAT along with Best. GPFS visitors can be among the first to glimpse the exhibit.
“Farm show visitors will also be among the first to be able to get their photos taken in front of fully-decorated D6 with over 4,000 holiday lights on it,” said Morten.
The Visitors Center celebrated its fifth anniversary at the end of October by renaming the facility for Oberhelman, the company’s recently retired CEO. “If you came to the Visitors Center last year or the year before, when you return this year you will see all new exhibits and enjoy an all new experience,” Morten said.
She noted those attending the 2017 GPFS will receive $1 off the $7 adult admission price for the CAT Visitors Center. Regular admission price for seniors 55 and older and active military is $6, and children 12 and under get free admission with adult supervision.
For more information on the Doug Oberhelman Caterpillar Visitors Center, including hours of operation, go to www.visitcaterpillar.com or call 309-675-0606.