Antique Tractors Parade Across Nebraska
Photos Courtesy of Gothenburg Community Development Office
In Nebraska, seeing a tractor drive down the road is not unusual during this time of year. However, it is unusual to see 20-50 tractors going down the road, especially when they are all antiques.
The antique tractor relay, held from June 2-June 10, covers the entire state of Nebraska. Farmers started in Plattsmouth, and will end in Lyman. The nine-day event is broken down into one day segments, and tractor drivers can participate in as many days as they choose.
Over the course of the event, nearly 190 people will participate in the relay statewide. However, just a small handful have decided to make the entire trip. One of those people was Donelle Moormeier from Courtland, Neb.
“When they started this from the beginning my husband and I said we needed to do this. We weren’t sure at first we wanted to do the whole trip, but when we found out another couple from Iowa was going to do it, we decided we wanted to do it as well. It was about Husker pride. So we hopped on the tractors and off we went,” she said.
She is traveling on a Farmall 706 and her husband has a Farmall 806. His tractor was given to him by his father in 1966 as a Christmas present. A few years later, his father passed away.
“We have farmed with that tractor up until about three years ago. Now we are retired, and we are driving it in memory of his dad,” said Moormeier.
Her tractor also has an interesting story behind it. “We bought it from a lady a few years ago. It was stuck in the field, and had been burnt. We restored it, which took us two years to finish. We just got it painted last month, and this is its maiden voyage. We have quite a few antique tractors at home and are always looking for more,” she said.
The family started collecting the tractors to help preserve the history. “We hated to see them going to the salvage yard. We have even bought some out of there. We can’t see the history go away. We want people to see and understand the history that goes with these tractors. We haven’t always had the big machinery, and things were a lot more laborious before. This helps people understand how things used to be done, and how our ancestors brought this country into what it is today,” she stated.
She also does it because its in her roots. “My husband and I both grew up on the farm. My son has my father’s super H tractor and he’s done traveling with that one. We also have my husbands grandfathers tractor,” she said.
The majority of the participants do not participate for the whole ride. Many of them just join in for one day segments in their local area. One of those drivers was Larry Frederick, who ranches South of Hershey, Neb.
“I drove these tractors as a kid. I hated them at the time. Then I started collecting and went back to my second childhood. I started collecting in the fall of 1991. I bought one, and then restored one that we had my dad bought in 1944. I even have the canceled check from when he paid for the tractor,” said Frederick.
He joined the parade on June 7, and is driving a 1964 John Deere tractor. He collects old John Deere tractors, and has 40 tractors now, as well as antique John Deere equipment. He has almost every style of two-cylinder row crop tractor that John Deere made, except for two. “I’m always looking for them,” he said.
Frederick participated in the event because of his love for these tractors. “It’s a pretty good time. I’m making friends and visiting with other collectors,” he said.
The idea for the relay was based on that of the Pony Express, and as soon as the idea was out, people wanted to participate. “I’ve been working with the antique machinery show that we do at Husker Harvest Days, and we started talking about it then. No one had a negative comment and everyone wanted to participate,” said Howard Raymond, the Secretary for the Nebraska Antique Farming Association.
He has participated in the ride since the beginning, and is driving a 1945 Farmall H. “I’m also pulling our club trailer for our club,” he said.
His motivation for the relay came from his interest in educating people. “My main motivation is to bring more awareness of the hobby in the state, and to unite collectors across the state. We can share events, and communicate with each other,” he said.
He continued, “We get these tractors fixed up, and we like to share them. The older generation gets so much enjoyment out of seeing these tractors out that they drove when they were younger. There is a bus load of people here today (June 7) that are older that came out today to see the tractors. It’s a bright spot in their day, and we are happy to provide that.”
Raymond hopes that this event will continue into the future, and will serve several purposes. “Eventually we want to get involved with the legislature about how we haul tractors and how we do shows at the state level, and this is a good way to get out that information too,” he said.
His ride will end in North Platte, which is where the ride will stop on June 7. However, he served as the co-supervisor for the leg on June 7 that went from Cozad to North Platte, and was responsible for coordinating the stops.
“We wanted to make it a public event. So I contacted the Chamber of Commerce in Cozad, and we had our big breakfast at the 100th meridian museum. Our next stop was in Gothenburg at the Pony Express museum. We will stop in Brady for lunch, and have a big event lined up. All the communities we have traveled through have been really supportive,” he said.
The stop in Gothenburg at the Pony Express museum was a perfect place, because the relay was based on the idea of the Pony Express itself. The Pony Express stop where the tractors are is one of the original Pony Express stations, and opened in 1954 to the visiting public.
“We love attractions like this that stop here. We have the perfect stop with the Pony Express. People can walk around and look at the tractors. This is pretty unique, and we have a pretty good turnout. Our visitors at the Pony Express station are pretty interested in what is going on as well,” said Joyce Kolbe, who works for the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce.
Working with local communities and other antique tractor collectors has been a joy for Raymond. “It’s just fun to get together with people who are interested in the same thing as you are. The people have been great. All the communities are really helpful. It’s been really nice. It sparks some of that old fashioned spiritedness of helping your neighbor that we don’t see any more,” he said.
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