When I began writing for Antique Power magazine, I discovered within the antique tractor hobby the wide world of tractor clubs, something for everyone and every interest. Through them, I’ve met so many wonderful people and learned of amazing collections. While conducting interviews with owners for my stories, I hear about even more clubs. Although not everyone likes to be involved in organizations, others thrive as members. What about you? I decided to offer newbies some points to consider.
If you love to attend tractor shows, pulls, threshing bees, plowing matches, etc, during the summer, you could suffer from “iron deficiency” when the season ends.
You might enjoy getting involved with other folks who share your interest. Membership in your local tractor club is a great way to make friends and socialize, get advice from veteran collectors and restorers, hear about tractors and parts for sale, and keep your enthusiasm going through the long winter ahead.
To be honest, some clubs flounder for a variety of reasons, but most do well. Many can claim large and growing memberships and a full schedule of fun activities. One club I learned of recently had such an enthusiastic spokesman, I wanted to hear more.
Our September/October issue includes an article I wrote titled “A Tale of Two Tractors,” about Kyle and Judi Shell, a married couple in Jonesborough, Tennessee, who own “his and hers” tractors that differ only in color. As we talked, Kyle Shell kept mentioning their local tractor club, the Tri-State Antique Power Association. In addition to being both a charter member and lifetime member, he is also a past president. He remembers a time when his own club needed a shot of adrenalin and the excitement of witnessing its renaissance during his presidency.
“We rescued it,” he said. “Now there’s excitement. We have a lot of excitement in the club.”
For one thing, members pitched in to give their annual show a big boost. They gained sponsorship and included more tractors.
“We worked together and did all that,” he said. “It wasn’t me. It was everybody. The first year, we had 127 tractors. The first year after I was president, we had 658 tractors. The club had grown that much, and it’s still maintaining and growing now.”
Tractor clubs come in all styles and sizes. Some local clubs are branches of larger nationwide or international organizations. Others focus on a certain make of tractor, or category (such as lawn and garden tractors). Some are exclusively about tractors while others include antique engines and different types of farm equipment. Some emphasize pulling. Others never include pulling in their events. What all clubs do share is the desire to encourage interest in, respect for, and the preservation of, antique tractors and the heritage of traditional agricultural practices.
When I asked Shell what he and his wife enjoy most about belonging to theirs, he said, “Involvement. You get to be involved in the show. You keep up with what’s going on. We go to other shows. We know people in other clubs, we support them and they support us.”
Plenty of opportunities for fun and fellowship exist. Tractor clubs usually host a show, but even if they don’t, they participate in community events by having member drive their tractors in parades or put them on public display at museums, fairs, or festivals.
When the Tri-State Antique Power Association holds their 24th Annual Appalachian Antique Farm Show & Farmers’ Reunion, in April of 2017, the club will draw crowds and potential new members with the good times it offers both adults and children. It even features a pedal tractor race for kids.
“We have a covered dish dinner and a barn dance,” Shell said. “Right now, we’ve got one of the best country bands. We eat, and then they start playing, and you can dance or just listen to the music. It has been one of the most successful things we’ve ever done. We’ll get between 200 and 300 people at the covered dish dinner and the barn dance.”
Most clubs give to charities and generally reach out to their communities in very positive ways. This video from the Southern Tier Antique Tractor Club in New York shows members enjoying their tractors and each other and also producing food for the local food bank.
Every tractor club wants to see more young people join, to keep the hobby going. With people so busy these days, a family-friendly organization like this offers a good way to spend time together. I’ve often seen three generations of a single family attending meetings. Working on a project with a parent or grandparent can mean special memories later. Clubs also welcome both men and women tractor owners.
“We have a lot of women and couples,” Shell said. “My wife has her own tractor. We’re trying to get more women involved. Once you get them involved, they love it.”
Maybe you and your family would love it too. In our September/October issue of Antique Power, we have published our 2016-2017 National and International Directory of Newsletter, Magazines, and Collector Clubs. You can also do a search on the internet or ask tractor owners you have met about local organizations.
We might mourn the passing of summer, but with the fellowship of our tractor friends and some good reading in Antique Power, fall and winter will feel cozy and warm.
Note: All photos were provided by and used with permission of the Tri-State Antique Power Association.