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This year's Gathering of the Green not only celebrates a shared love for John Deere tractors but the 100th anniversary of the company's entrance into the tractor business.

The 2018 Gathering of the Green will be a four-day conference, March 21-24, at the Davenport RiverCenter. The biennial conference transforms the exhibition hall with tractors, implements, displays, vendors, workshops and speakers, among other attractions.

Tony Knobbe, one of the organizers, said this year's Gathering is expected to draw a record crowd of nearly 3,000 John Deere two-cylinder and New Generation tractor collectors, restorers, enthusiasts and families. He expects pre-registrations to pass the 1,170- mark today, which also is a record. 

"This is a Deere family reunion," he said. "You can see it in the crowd. Most of them haven't seen each other in two years. They're glad to see their friends and they make new friends, too."

The 2018 event already has attracted enthusiasts from 45 states as well as Canada, Germany, England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. "We can call it a global gathering," Knobbe said.

Registration for the full conference will close March 14. Single-day passes also are available at the door. 

"Our theme, 'Legend, Made Legacy,' calls to mind the importance of that decision to get into the tractor business, and we would argue, but for that decision we would not have heard of the name John Deere," Knobbe said.

The Gathering comes a week after the March 14, 1918, anniversary of Deere's purchase of the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co., he said.

But true enthusiasts know that the Waterloo Boy was Deere's second tractor. Its first was the Dain, named for Joseph Dain, owner of the former Dain Manufacturing Co. in Ottumwa, Iowa. Knobbe said "Deere inherited him and his engineering abilities."

He designed the Dain tractor and Deere produced 100 of them. But before they went to market, Dain died and production ceased, he said.

About the same time, Deere learned the Waterloo company was available for sale. Since that acquisition, Deere has designed, produced and sold about 596 different tractors, including the revered Two-Cylinder, New Generation and Generation II tractors.

"The Waterloo purchase put them on the map as far as being a tractor manufacturer," Knobbe said.

This year's Gathering will feature one of the two remaining Dains in the world — one Deere owns — on display along with other John Deere tractors. Other features include a 32-foot high Aermotor windmill that will be working inside the RiverCenter as well as farm house displays depicting the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. 

Activities include 30 bus tours to regional locations such as Deere manufacturing plants in East Moline, Waterloo and Dubuque as well as to area tractor collections, Rock Island Arsenal, Amana Colonies, Big River Resources ethanol plant in West Burlington and several shopping and sightseeing tours around the Quad-Cities.

This year, participants also will hear from three current Deere & Co. executives: David DaVault, manager of Deere's Waterloo operations; Neil Dahlstrom, manager of Deere's corporate archives; and Graham Thompson, Deere's director of Global Tractor Portfolio Development and Strategic Growth Planning. The event also will feature 63 technical workshops and 80 vendors.

Gathering of the Green began in 2000 when members of four regional John Deere tractor clubs saw the need for a national collectors conference. The sponsoring clubs, which still organize the event, are Deer Valley Collectors, Illinois Valley Two-Cylinder Club, North Eastern Illinois Twin-Cylinder Club, and Northwest Illinois Deer Collectors Club.

In conjunction with Gathering of the Green, the public is invited to an auction of John Deere and Caterpillar toys owned by Eldon and Kaye Trumm. It will be at 3 p.m., March 23, and 9 a.m. March 24 at the nearby Radisson Quad-City Plaza, Davenport.