Collectors bring pieces of history to fair

PENFIELD – Glenn Miller's 1955 Farmall 300 pulling a 1948 McCormick reaper cut a five-foot swath through a wheat field Friday with dozens of spectators watching.

Miller, a 76-year-old Seymour farmer, had heart surgery seven weeks ago, but said he was determined to recover in time to bring his antique equipment to Historic Farm Days, a show that continues through Sunday at Penfield, headquarters of the I&I Antique Tractor and Gas Engine Club.

"I've been collecting about 15 years," Miller said. "It's a little bit of history. When I was in school this is the kind of equipment farmers used. I begin to realize my age when I realize how much I know about this old equipment."

Miller and his son, Greg, restore their equipment themselves but Miller said he likes to build, not repair, so he leaves that work – and the painting – to his son.

"We collect both red and green, and I've farmed with both," said Miller of the predominantly green – John Deere – theme of the show this year.

But Millers weren't the only exhibitors at the show with equipment that's not green. In another field, Bill Jansen and his son, Jesse, drove a ponderous Advance Rumely steam-driven tractor pulling a plow. Jansen, a Dieterich-area farmer, said the Advance belongs to Herb Beckmeyer of Champaign, and Beckmeyer couldn't come to the show, so he asked Jansen to show it for him.

The Jansens also hauled their Case steam tractor from southern Illinois to Penfield, not an easy job because tractors of that 1924 vintage weigh in at about 15 tons and it takes a semi-tractor-trailer to haul them.

"You have to build a fire to get a head of steam to drive them," Jansen said. "I drove one a half-mile up and a half-mile back and used 400 gallons of water and 500 pounds of coal."

He said the tractor has the water capacity to drive about a mile but when they were used in the field, crews with horses and water tanks drove beside them to refill them on the move.

"These tractors are almost 100 years old," said Jansen, who has four more of the old steam tractors at home. "We enjoy showing people how farmers used machinery in those days. "

Jansen said he's been coming to the Penfield show for 10 years, and it's one of his favorite shows of the eight he attends in a typical year.

Jesse Jansen, who farms with his father, said he's been driving steam tractors since he was about 13. He said his four siblings also learned to drive them. Jansen said he's father of two with a third on they way, and if they're interested in following family tradition, he'll teach them to drive the ponderous machines too.

I&I President John Fredrickson of Kentland, Ind., said crowds at the show so far have been excellent and he expects Saturday to be the biggest day.

"I&I has put Penfield back on the map," Fredrickson said.

"It's amazing," said Chris Karr of Seymour, the show's announcer for years. "People come from all over thd U.S. I think the Deere people are trying to top our 2002 Red Power show. And we've been so blessed with the weather."

Today, gates open at 7 a.m., field demonstrations begin at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., there's a grand parade at 1 p.m., and tractor pulls are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., with fireworks following the pull at dusk.

On Sunday, demonstrations start at 10 a.m., the parade is at 1 p.m., the pull is at 2 p.m. and the show ends by 5 p.m.

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