You've no doubt heard of tractor shows, but lawn tractor shows?
Yes, they're a thing.
And the first in the Quad-City area will be Saturday, July 6, in Princeton, sponsored by the city's parks department at the suggestion of die-hard lawn tractor collector Dan Doyle who hopes the show will attract enough interest to become an annual event.
"Believe it or not, it may not sound like a big deal, but ... there's a garden tractor show every week" in the Midwest, said Doyle, adding that the shows attract hundreds, if not thousands, of people.
"Think about it," he said. "What does everyone in a small town have? A lawn and a lawn mower." And many of those with lawn mower tractors get interested in repairing, restoring and collecting them, just as with regular farm tractors.
Doyle, his dad and his brother own about 100 lawn tractors among them.
Some of them work, and some don't, but they're all valued for their history and their brands, including Simplicity, Allis-Chalmers, Ford, Case, New Holland, John Deere and a battery-powered mower made in the 1970s by General Electric.
In some instances, the tractors weren't actually made by the company bearing their name; that company simply contracted out the work according to its specifications and put its name on the finished product. But the name represented another brand in the mix, nonetheless.
Older tractors are especially appealing, Dan Doyle said. If someone knows how to fix them — which he and his dad do — they can last indefinitely, he said. And that is part of their appeal.
Many of today's tractors as "disposable," he said. They wear out in a few years, and people get new ones. "Nobody wants to work on them," he said.
Exactly when riding garden tractors came into being is debatable, Kate Goelzhauser, managing editor of Lawn and Garden Tractor Magazine, said in an email.
“Many claim to have been the first and that has always been a point of conversation for the collectors of the extreme vintage brands."
However, she wrote, "I have a source that says in 1919 there were 11 companies that produced garden tractor units and by 1950 there were 50 plus companies that produced them.”
Doyle thought a show would liven things up
Although Doyle now lives in Kansas, he maintains strong ties to his family in Princeton, and he suggested the show as a way to boost interest in the annual Princeton Garden Walk, a fundraiser for the Princeton Community Center, that is organized by his aunt, Val Rasche.
As it has turned out, the show originally envisioned as an interesting sidelight is now replacing the walk, which has been canceled. Because flooding on the Mississippi River inundated many people's yards, gardeners simply weren't up to being involved in a public walk this year, Rasche said.
"We still have HESCO barriers up, two of our gardeners still have water in their yards and River Drive is nothing but mud," she said in mid-June. "It would just put too much stress on everybody."
More about the show
The garden tractor show, organized under the auspices of the park board, will be on the grounds of the Virgil Grissom Elementary School, 500 Lost Grove Road. Dan Doyle expects to bring about 30 of his own tractors in a spectrum of different colors, all "parade ready"; that is, shined and dressed up with flags.
He invites anyone in the community who wants to show off theirs to do the same.
"I know they're out there," Doyle said of other tractors and collectors.
The show will be free, but he's hoping there will be enough interest to charge admission next year.
In addition to the tractors, there will be activities for children such as a pedal tractor pull and a maze. Food including brats, tenderloins, crab croissant sandwiches and side dishes, will be prepared and served in the school by members of the Princeton Beautification Committee. Serving will be 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., or when the food runs out.
The sale of food will be the event's fundraising aspect. Proceeds will go to the beautification committee.