Seeing red: Tractor show opens in Huron
HURON -- Charles Stevenson may have been a long way from home Thursday, but he certainly wasn't out of place.
A resident of Mims, Fla., he was representing the Sunshine State's chapter in the International Harvester Collectors Club. He's a regular to the club's national shows, and that brought him to South Dakota for the first time this week.
"The show brought me to South Dakota," he said. "I've flown over before, but this is a first."
More than 450 tractors and 350 exhibitors were on hand for day one of the 25th Annual National Red Power Round Up, which is being held at the South Dakota State Fairgrounds in Huron. The show continues today and Saturday. Admission is $10 per person; those under 16 are admitted for free.
Stevenson has been an International guy since he was 7 years old. That was when he accidently crashed one of his father's Allis-Chalmers tractors because he was not quite tall enough to reach the pedals. From there, his dad bought a Farmall Cub, and the love affair with red was born.
While Stevenson worked at Cape Canaveral for more than 40 years with NASA, he's always had a hand in restoring old tractors. He owns about a dozen International models and the list of tractors -- the Farmall B, A, M, H, MD -- may sound like alphabet soup, but reaches a common wavelength among collectors.
"I think it's what we all grew up with and when you have that in common, there's a lot of camaraderie there," Stevenson said.
The show is not just an example of agriculture history but also brand loyalty.
"There are some guys that are in tractor clubs and they don't touch anything else that isn't red," said Gene Jacobson, of Anderson, Calif., who has been a classic tractor aficionado since his youth and used the trip to South Dakota to visit family in Arlington.
"It was on his bucket list and now he can cross it off," added his wife, Barbara.
Don and Darlene Beckman, of White Lake, were at the fairgrounds Thursday and enjoyed seeing the various models of tractors they've used during their farming careers.
"He's always farmed with International his entire life," Darlene said of her husband, who added his affiliation with the brand dates back to 1940, when his dad bought an F-20 model.
"You see a lot of the models that you just don't see otherwise," Don said. "There's certainly a lot to see."
But the International Harvester name goes far beyond the reach of tractors or corn pickers. The company owned Cub Cadet during the 1960s and '70s, and more than 100 of the yellow lawn tractors were on display. Construction equipment and antique implements were also shown on the grounds.
Dave Morgan is a military historian in Huron and he put together a display of weapons that were manufactured by International Harvester, most notably during the 1940s and 1950s and their production of the M1 Garand rifle, which Morgan carried during Army basic training in 1961. After doing some research, Morgan said he was taken aback at how much manufacturing the company was involved in, including tanks and torpedoes.
"I didn't really know how extensive this all was," he said. "It's phenomenal how much they were involved. It has been an eye-opener for me."
Like Jacobson and Stevenson, visitors from all over descended on Huron for the show. Six visitors from France and two more from Australia visited on Thursday, according to South Dakota IH chapter member Carol Osterman of Groton. She was among the South Dakota representatives selling show memorabilia, ranging from bread boards to belt buckles.
"It's been a madhouse," she said. "It's wonderful."
The start of the show closed a three-year planning process since South Dakota's successful bid for the show in 2011. According to show organizers, Huron is the furthest north and west the national show has ever been located -- but not by much. South Dakota has hosted once before, when Prairie Village near Madison held the event in 1997.
Other displays included South Dakota-related agricultural items and an indoor display of how International Harvester has evolved over the years. The company was created in 1902 when McCormick Harvesting Machine Company and Deering Harvester Company merged and lasted until 1985 when it was renamed as Navistar International Corporation. The Case IH brand began then when the IH agricultural division merged with J.I. Case Co.
Osterman said there was some worry about how well the show would be attended, considering there were few tractors on the grounds Tuesday. But the sea of red rolled in on trailers Wednesday, and it's been full speed since then, she said. Show organizers expect 20,000 people to attend the three-day show.
"It's just fun to see what kind of show our little state can pull off," Osterman said.