RANTOUL, Ill. — Billed as the “largest vintage farm show,” the Half Century of Progress exceeded expectations when it was held Aug. 22-25 at the Rantoul National Aviation Center.
Show co-chair Russell Buhr has been involved with the event since it was initially part of the Farm Progress Show in 2003 at Henning and then moved permanently two years later to the former Chanute Air Force Base where it is held biennially just prior to when the Farm Progress Show is in Decatur.
“Everything went well. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and everything went very smoothly,” Buhr said.
This year’s theme was the “Harvest Brigade,” and the airport’s 1,192 acres buzzed with farm equipment dating back to the early 20th century through the 1960s.
A large contingent of vintage steam engines, tractors, wagons, combines and pickers harvested corn and soybeans on the grounds, tilled and shelled corn.
The class of 1969 tractors and equipment also were highlighted during the show and led the Parade of Power on Saturday afternoon.
Food stands and vendors filled the runways and taxiways adjacent to the airport’s hangars, and there was daily entertainment for the tens of thousands to enjoy over the four days.
The show, hosted by the I & I Antique Tractor and Gas Engine Club, draws visitors from numerous states across the nation, as well as from other countries.
“There were many people there from so many countries, let along states. I know for sure there were people there from 38 states. There may have been more from other states but that’s what I know of,” Buhr noted.
“A couple came from Maine that milked a lot of cows. There are five of them in the family, and they just came to see the show. They evidently have somebody to milk the cows when they go on vacation. There was a couple there from Fresno, California. It’s just crazy.
“I talked to people that I know from Australia who have been here before. There were also people from England, Holland, New Zealand and there was probably more from all of these countries.”
There also were a lot of first-timers attending the show.
“You have to go see it because you can’t describe it. You can say how good it is or how busy it is, but you still have to see it,” Buhr said.
The show is run completely by volunteers, and Buhr and others were working on the grounds Monday to get it ready to return as an operational airport.
“We’re loading everything up. The airport is going to open tonight, so we’re getting things moved around,” he said.