New technologies have changed the way Minnesotans live — often for the better.
But as people add shinier and more efficient machines to their daily routines, the old tools past generations used often get left to rust. It’s a trend that Terry Muelken, founder of the Credit River Antique Tractor Club, doesn’t like.
Since 1998, Muelken’s club has hosted shows around the state each summer to display antique farming equipment and preserve a part of Minnesota’s farming history. This year, the club’s big event will be held July 17-19 at Cedar Lake Farm Regional Park near New Prague.
“We want to preserve farming the way that it was back in the old days,” Muelken said. “Most of us [in the club] grew up on farms and we did it a lot different than how they do it now.”
The club plans to display 60 to 100 antique machines over the weekend. The three-day event also will feature live music, food vendors, hayrides, craft shows, a flea market, a beer garden and a daily parade at 2 p.m. Admission is free.
Three Rivers Park District’s Midsummer Festival will be held at the park Saturday, alongside the tractor show. The one-day event will also offer free kayaking, canoeing and archery demos, a climbing wall, inflatable bouncers and fishing.
This is the fourth year the tractor show will coincide with the Midsummer Festival at the park. It’s a combination that brings in a diverse crowd over the weekend, said Jenna Tuma, operations supervisor at Three Rivers Park District.
“It’s really an interesting event because it sometimes has four generations at it,” she said. “We have the really super young kids, all the way up to our super seniors that are there.”
The Midsummer Festival on Saturday — generally the most attended day of the weekend — tends to attract families and young children. The younger crowd helps the tractor club meet its primary goal of teaching kids about the old machinery, Muelken said.
“There’s still a lot of kids that are still interested in farming because we are in a [farming] area,” he said. “They know what tractors are and they know what they are looking at and they all want to sit on them.”
Want to win a tractor?
The Credit River Antique Tractor Club raffles off an antique tractor each year, and will be selling tickets at the show. The winner, chosen in a drawing on Oct. 3, can choose between a restored tractor or $2,000.
The tractor club keeps enough money from raffle ticket sales to purchase a new piece of equipment to restore for the following summer. The rest of the proceeds go to local charities, including various veterans’ organizations and Minneapolis-based nonprofit Sharing and Caring Hands.
So far, the club has spent about $5,000 fixing up this year’s tractor, said John Riesgraf the group’s treasurer. The tractors, a seemingly unusual raffle prize, can generally be sold for $3,500 to $5,000.
“I encourage them to try to take [the tractor] because they can make a little extra money for a little extra work on eBay or wherever they want to go with it,” Riesgraf said.
This year, the tractor club also plans to place donation boxes near the entrance of the park. Donations collected in the boxes will go to a needy family or individual in Scott County, Riesgraf said.
Hobby farm equipment
While preserving history and contributing to the community is the main purpose of the Credit River Antique Tractor Club, it also is an important hobby for local enthusiasts, said Michael Kepner, the club’s current president.
Kepner discovered the Credit River Antique Tractor Club nearly 10 years ago at a show and was hooked. He’s been expanding his tractor collection ever since.
“I was collecting toy models of tractors,” he said. “I went to the shows and they had 1/16 farm tractors, so I bought some of them. Then I got into the first John Deere lawn tractors they made in the ’60s … and it just went from there.”
Still, Kepner has a long way to go to catch up to some of the tractor club members.
“There are guys that have 25, 30, 40, 50 tractors that you didn’t even know were around anymore,” Muelken said. “They are restoring them and trying to keep that part of our history preserved. That’s what you see at these shows.”
Janice Bitters is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer.