PENFIELD, Ill. — The I&I Antique Tractor and Gas Engine Club started in 1976 at the Bill White farm, south of Alvin. The five founding members of the club were: Bill White, Harvey Phillips, Dave, Daniel and Richard Allison.
The club was started for the preservation of early farming methods and equipment and the rural lifestyle. Since then, the club has grown to between 350 and 400 members.
During the early years, antique equipment shows and bragging rights tractor pulls were held at Bill White’s farm. The club also set up displays at area shopping malls, county fairs, parades and other festivals.
In 1986, the club members approached the Champaign County Forest Preserve about using an area at the Middle Fork River Forest Preserve north of Penfield to have the annual show. The land was cleared and wheat was sown that fall for the 1987 show.
The 1987 Historic Farm Days Show was the first one held at the Middle Fork River Forest Preserve. It was a two-day show. There was wheat combining, plowing, threshing and antique equipment displays.
Over the years, the show grew to include a saw mill, blacksmith shop, tractor pulls and parts vendors. In 1992, the show expanded to three days.
In 1996, the club was able to buy the Penfield Improvement Association property, the former Penfield grade school and 12 additional acres — 24 acres total. This was done through the support of our club members and friends in the community who held fundraisers, donated and loaned money to the club.
The 1996 show was supposed to be held at the Middle Fork River Forest Preserve. County Road 22 was under construction and was not going to be finished in time for the show.
Ten days before the show, the decision was made to move the show to the grounds at Penfield. The ground was cleared, the school was cleaned up and painted and all of the equipment was moved from the Forest Preserve to the new show grounds.
In 1996 and 1997, the school was renovated. Over the years, other buildings had been added to the show grounds: new club hall, sawmill building, band pavilion, pork palace, tractor pull track and grandstands, blacksmiths shop, north shed, feature brand building, the Methodist church, log cabin and the Maplewood one-room schoolhouse.
In 2001 Historic Farm Days expanded to four days.
The club has faced some adversity over the years: In 1997, the PIA building burned and was replaced by the new club hall, and in 2004, the north shed was destroyed and the tractor pull grandstand and the announcer’s booth were damaged by a tornado. The north shed was then rebuilt.
Over the years, the club grounds has grown to approximately 120 acres.
The club operates the Agricultural History Museum in the former Penfield grade school. It is open March through October from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month.
The museum features antique tractors and machinery, antique tools, household displays, the corn room, the IH room and anything pertaining to early farm and county life. The museum features two tractors on loan from the Smithsonian Institute: the IH HT-340 gas turbine tractor and the Hart Parr #3.
The club is on an eight-year rotation of antique tractors and equipment: John Deere, JI Case, Allis Chalmers, Oliver, International Harvester, Minneapolis Moline, Massey Harris/Ferguson and Ford.