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‘ A big crowd for this little town’

1962 Farm Progress Show held at rural Blairsburg farm

August 24, 2012
Larry Kershner ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

BLAIRSBURG - Even though 2012 is the 59th year for the Farm Progress Show, it is also the 50th anniversary of the show's residence in a cornfield a mile north of Blairsburg in Hamilton County.

The farm, located in the southwest corner of section 23 of Blairsburg Township, belonged to Everett Smith. According to those who were there, it was a big deal then.

Chuck Schroder, 71, who farms across the road from the Smith farm, said he was just discharged from the Navy and needed a job then. Hiring on with local farmer Maynard Fitch, Schroder ended up doing various jobs to assist the setup for the 1962 show.

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He said the local rural electric company strung power lines to the site. Extra telephone lines were also provided, plus a myriad of improvements were made to the farm.

Schroder said Smith benefited from the seed that was donated and planted by a variety of companies in test plots, chemical inputs were donated and applied, and companies provided combining and silage demonstrations, all of which were handed over to Smith for the use of his land that year.

Schroder said his father, Harold Schroder, provided his barn to stable the horses for the National Guard, which provided security for the event, and International Harvester planted a cornfield test plot north of the Schroders' home and used it to test a new combine prior to the show.

"North of that was a pasture," Chuck Schroder said, "where people camped."

He said neighboring farms were used for other services, including some with grassed runways to shuttle show officials and company representatives to and from the area.

He said the now-famous Farmall tractor dance originated at the 1962 Farm Progress Show.

"There were a lot of nice people around," he said.

He recalls that Jeeps were used by show workers to move around the grounds.

A bevy of local churches were contacted to provide food booths at the show.

Schroder, now a self-described hobby farmer and winter snowbird, said his recollections of the three-day show itself was that people lined up at the gate early to get in each morning.

All of the major farm-related companies and manufacturers of the day were represented.

Different churches were given exclusive food vending rights at the show.

"They took in an awful lot of money," he said.

Viora Welsh, whose family rented a farm two miles to the west, worked packaging and selling boxed lunches in the food booth of the Congregational Church, now called the United Church of Christ Congregation.

"It was so funny," Welsh said, "we never did this before." She said at first each person rushed to fill a box with a sandwich, a bar, chips and an apple.

"Everyone was in each other's way, bumping against each other," she said. "I thought there had to be a better way," so she organized an assembly line, where the box moved down the row, with each person placing one of the four food items into it.

The process brought order to the chaos, she said.

Due to the crush of people waiting on the main roads to enter each morning, she said the church used a small lane from the west to gain access to the grounds.

One of the attractions was helicopter rides, of which one of her children took advantage.

"I remember Bell Telephone gave away little telephone key chains," Welsh said. "We had those around the house quite awhile."

She said the whole event was a family friendly affair. "Children were everywhere," she said.

The church was kept so busy, she said, there was little time to get out and see the show itself.

"It was a big crowd for this little town," she said.

Iowa has hosted 16 of the 59 Farm Progress Show events.



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