ASHLAND – Forty years ago, a group of Cass County farmers united to pay homage to the agricultural equipment used by early farmers and pioneers in the area.
Ashley Boller, Walter Hannssen, Maurice Robertson and Clarke Hall founded the first Mid-States Antique Tractor and Engine Show in 1979. It was held at the Cass County Fairgrounds in Weeping Water.
A year later, the show was moved to show grounds located on land donated by Boller and his wife, Grace, at 262nd Street and Church Road south of Ashland, said Ashley Heitman, Boller’s granddaughter.
“My grandpa donated the existing show grounds to the club and it’s been here ever since,” she said.
The show will be held on Saturday, July 27 and Sunday, July 28, starting at 9 a.m. both days.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the event, and a member of Boller family continues to be a part of the tradition.
Heitman is the president of the organization. Her father, Jesse Boller, was a part of the organization until his death in 2014. Heitman has been in charge ever since.
“Now it’s in my hands,” she said.
Actually, there are many hands that help with the event. Heitman credits the entire Mid-States membership with putting on the annual show.
Each year, the organization features a specific tractor brand. This year, in honor of the 40th anniversary, they have chosen to showcase the two top brands – International and John Deere.
They are calling it the “Red-Green Show” in honor of the brand’s signature colors, as well a nod to the popular show of the same name that used to run on the Public Broadcasting System, Heitman explained.
The fact that the show has been going for 40 years is adding to the excitement for members and the hundreds of visitors who come to watch tractor parades, tractor pulls, threshing demonstrations and exhibitions and participate in fun activities and eat lunch.
“It’s kind of a big milestone for us,” Heitman said.
They have also added some new activities for the 40th anniversary. A dirt moving exhibit will be located on new land recently added to the show grounds, Heitman said. There will be land levelers, scrapers, graders, and bull dozers showing off their skills.
Another new event is on a much smaller scale. The National Micro Mini Tractor Pull Association will hold a tractor pull with radio-controlled tractors. Heitman said a Mid-states member is also a member of this association and brought the idea to the organization.
One of the most popular exhibits over the past 30 years has been the “Maytag Lady.” Judy Callaway of Lincoln has brought her collection of antique washing machines to the show every year since 1988. She is planning to retire from shows, Heitman said, but she will be back one more time just for the anniversary.
“She’s coming for our 40th,” Heitman said.
One of the most special aspects of the show is the simplest. Two years ago, a downpour during the lunch hour forced participants and visitors to take a break, Heitman said. With nothing else to do, they began talking with each other, and realized they were enjoying themselves.
The next year, organizers added a lunch break when all the main events are shut down.
Along with the visitors, it also gives Mid-States members a chance to slow down enough to stop and talk.
“So we can have lunch and visit with our guests and exhibitors,” Heitman said.
Getting to know new people and sharing a love of tractors and old machinery is what inspires the Mid-States members.
“That’s why we keep doing it,” Heitman said.
They also do it to allow people who’ve never been on or near a tractor a chance to learn about these great machines. Many of the activities are open to anyone, whether they’ve ever driven a tractor or not, like the potato race and backseat driver race, said Heitman.
There are also many activities for children, like the non-competitive tractor rodeo and pedal pull.
“We pride ourselves on kids being involved with hands-on experiences,” Heitman said.
Watching the tractor pulls on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons are also a very popular part of the show for all ages. The pulls are divided up into various weight classes, from garden tractors to 6,000-pound “kings of the hill.”
Another traditional feature of the show is the tractor raffle. Each year they select a different antique tractor to give away to one lucky ticket holder. This year it will be a 1951 John Deere B tractor.
Only 750 tickets are sold for the raffle, but there are still tickets available, Heitman said. The cost is $5 each.
Admission to the show is also $5. Those who get there by 9 a.m. can witness the flag raising ceremony each day. Seamstress Carolyn Watson of Ashland helped design and finish the club’s flag, which will be used in the ceremony.
The show grounds are located at 12601 262nd Street. For more information, go to www.mid-statesantiquetractorshow.org or call 402-440-6652.