For readers of Antique Power magazine and all who love antique tractors, summer means more than baseball, barbecues, and beaches; it means tractor shows! These fun events, suitable for the whole family, take place all over the country and provide an opportunity for newbies to see a large quantity and variety of antique tractors in one place. You might even find the tractor of your dreams for sale.
The “Great Oregon Steam-Up,” now in its 45th year, makes a fine example of a tractor show with plenty to offer. It takes place during the final weekend of July and the first weekend of August, at “Antique Powerland,” a 62-acre complex conveniently located just a quarter of a mile west of Interstate 5 near Brooks, Oregon, which is about 40 miles south of Portland. Multiple individual museums on the grounds feature heritage power equipment, including, but not limited to, tractors. You can see logging equipment, large and small stationary engines, cars, trucks, motorcycles, and much more, which is often the case with general “tractor shows” as well.
I spoke with two men who are heavily involved with Antique Powerland. Al Hall is a board member and does the event’s marketing. Alan Painter, a member of the Steam-Up committee, is in charge of the tractors and implements. Some of what they had to say is specific to the “Great Oregon Steam-Up,” but most of their remarks apply to any good tractor show.
Here is The Newbie’s list of reasons to love tractor shows—
1. You could see a tractor parade.
Hall: “Every year, we have a different featured tractor. This year, we’re featuring Minneapolis-Moline, but we have a lot of exhibitors who bring their own restored tractors to the Great Oregon Steam-Up.
“We have a daily parade, about an hour-and-a-half long. We start out with our featured tractor, then have our steam tractors, and then go on from there. We’ll have our John Deere tractors, Case tractors, International Harvesters, on and on. People sit in the bleachers or inside our music tent and watch all the different tractors come by. We have an announcer who talks about each tractor. They all have a number.”
2. You can look at tractors up close in a static display, including some that are available to buy.
Hall: “Just about every type of tractor will be there. Every year is a little different, depending on who brings what. We have the oldest operating steam tractor in the nation. It’s a Case tractor, built in 1880, and that will be in the parade.”
Painter: “We have an example of a John Deere dealership from the 1930s. When you walk in the front door, you see two or three display models of tractors, and behind that is the parts counter. We have both wheeled tractors and crawlers.”
3. You can watch a “tractor pull.”
Some tractor shows include tractor pulls. Categorized by weight and power, the tractors compete to see which one can pull a heavy “sled” over the longest distance in a certain amount of time. As the sled moves along the dirt track, it develops an increasing amount of resistance (or drag), making it more and more difficult to move.
4. You can see “living history” demonstrations that give the whole family a chance to experience everyday farm life as it was in the past, a feature of many tractor shows.
Painter: “We’re trying to have an active display.”
Hall: “During Steam-Up, people can actually see all the equipment operate. It started out as mostly a tractor show, and they demonstrated threshing and baling and binding with the steam tractors. Over time, we’ve grown.”
He described the live demonstrations in a working blacksmith shop and steam-operated sawmill that runs four times a day.
“We have miniature, one-eighth-scaled railroad rides and electric trolley rides,” Hall added.
5. You can browse a swap meet or flea market to find parts, tractor literature, antiques, collectibles, and more.
Hall: “During Steam-Up, we have a real big swap meet, mostly old collectibles, so naturally, the first weekend is the best time to go to that.”
6. You can connect with tractor clubs in your area.
Joining a club is a great way to meet other antique tractor enthusiasts, and club members will be available at the show to answer your questions.
7. You can experience nostalgia and share it with younger generations.
Painter: “People see tractors they remember from their family—ones their father or grandfather had.”
Hall: “People tell us it’s the best family event in Oregon.”
He mentioned a “youth passport” program at the Great Oregon Steam-Up. The “passport” is stamped at different locations on the grounds, after kids answer simple questions that indicate what they have learned or observed. Then their passport becomes an entry in drawings for great prizes, like bicycles.
All but the very smallest tractor shows have plenty of food vendors, and many offer live music and other entertainment, too. You can learn about shows in your area in the pages of Antique Power magazine or through the Show Guide, which is sent to subscribers every spring. Grab the kids or grandkids, hats, and sunscreen, and head out to a tractor show near you for a fun day sure to become a treasured memory.