Original big wheels: Antique tractor club


ADAMS -- It's not a trip to the agricultural fair without a touch of mechanical grease and the sweet, grinding symphony of a tractor engine revving with the sun reflecting off of an antique-tractor-red paint job.

For visitors planning to the attend the 38-year-old Adams Agricultural Fair this weekend at the Bowe Field on Columbia Street in Adams, the nod to farming tradition will go beyond the prize-winning cattle and local baked goods and handiwork on display in the exhibit hall, thanks to the organizers of the Berkshire Antique Tractor Club. During the three-day event, tractors that were once considered by some past their mechanical prime will be on display for fairgoers to appreciate.

"I believe in keeping it old and simple," said Forist Mc Lain, a North Adams resident who started the loosely-organized club for antique tractor enthusiasts a few years ago with his cousin Ralph McLain.

Forist said he first became interested in antique tractors as a boy while growing up on his family farm in Clarksburg.

"We had a 1951 Massey-Har ris Mustang. That's how I got into the old tractors," he said, not hiding the admiration in his voice.

The popular manufacturer that made his family's vintage tractor was founded in 1847 in Ontario and introduced the first self-propelled combine harvester in the 1930s; it later produced one of the world's first four-wheel drive tractors.

"You can take the boy out of the country, but not the country out of the boy," Forist McLain said.

Now a master plumber in Massachusetts, he owns two of his own antique tractors and said the club is always looking for new members with antique tractors to appreciate.

"Any tractor, any size and any color long as its 1984 or older," he said.

For Adams Agricultural fair organizers, its important to have the club -- a regular staple at the fair for the past few years -- and its beloved tractors on exhibit.

"We really want it to remain old-fashioned fair with something for everyone," said Betty Randall, one of the directors of the fair, who is also in charge publicity. "Our goal to keep a true fair going."

In addition to the antique tractors, the fair also offers great food, entertainment, the popular demolition derby, ribbon-winning quilts and goods, and animals from ton-and-a-half draft horses to 4-H calves to show sheep to fancy chickens.

The highlight of the weekend will be the dedication of the ground's new 40-by-80-foot pavilion on Friday at the start of the fair.

For a slight twist on the traditional, fairgoers can also attend the "Hillybilly Lawn and Tractor Events," which includes racing and a tractor pull with your average garden lawnmower tractor -- a first for the fair, according to Randall.

"If it runs, you can run it," said McLain, who is helping organizers with the Saturday event that is set to start at noon. (Entrance fee for the race is $15 and organizers ask that the tractor be worth no more than $300, Randall said.)

"It's just a fun thing," she said.

In the end all of the fun and tradition comes back to the basic mission of the agricultural fair -- to teach. And, Randall said, having the antique tractors on display helps achieve that goal.

"Most people have not seen tractors this old," she said. "This was type of thing people used for years. They might look frail compared to what they have today, but they are impressive for what they can do."

For McLain, who will be showing his 1972 Economy Power King Tractor -- a garden-type vintage variety -- alongside his cousin's Gibson tractors from the 1940s and 1950s, sharing an appreciation for the antique machines is an important part of respecting American history.

Now, more than ever, it's important to remember what these machines did and still do, as he pointed out that fewer and fewer companies are manufacturing these kind of tractors -- which is why the club is always looking for new machines to appreciate and put on display and join in the community fun, he said.

"Everybody is welcome to bring a tractor down and show it," he said. "Just have fun, sit around and shoot the bull."

What: Adams Agricultural Fair

When: Friday through Sunday, with a battle of the bands tonight at 6

Information: For a complete schedule of fair events, visit www.adamsfair.com.

To join the Berkshire Antique Tractor Club: Contact Forist McLain at (413) 346-3198.

Organizers of the fair ask that you bring your tractor, if you are going to show it, before the official opening of the fair on Friday at 5 p.m.


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