The Gathering of the Green will return to downtown Davenport next month, bringing more than 2,500 antique John Deere tractor collectors and enthusiasts to the Quad-Cities.
Planned for March 16-19 at the Davenport RiverCenter, the Gathering of the Green draws John Deere two-cylinder and New Generation tractor collectors, restorers and enthusiasts for a four-day conference with three days of workshops, speakers, tours and other activities. Founded in 2000, the biennial event draws visitors from coast to coast as well as abroad.
"It takes hundreds of volunteers and thousands of hours to put this event together over a two-year period," said Tony Knobbe, the event's chairman.
The gathering is a chance for enthusiasts to come together, share stories, learn about tractor restoration and other topics and shop vendors for everything from replacement parts to John Deere manuals, signs, toys, clothing and other memorabilia.
Founded and led by an all-volunteer committee, Knobbe said, "It's like a family reunion, where you go to see your friends. They are all collectors and enthusiasts in one fashion or another."
The biennial event came to life in 2000 when members of four regional John Deere tractor clubs recognized the need for a national conference for collectors. Those founding clubs — Deer Valley Collectors from the Quad-City area, Valley Two-Cylinder Club, Northeastern Illinois Twin-Cylinder Club and Northwest Illinois Deer Collectors — remain active in staffing the event with volunteers.
Knobbe said Deere & Co. itself is not involved in the planning.
"The company does provide enthusiastic support of us," he said.
With a theme of "Forge to Farm," this year's lineup includes more than 60 technical and historic workshops, including sessions for spouses and evening programs; 70 vendors; John Deere factory and ag-related tours; and an auction. Extensive displays will include tractors and implements owned by collectors as well as a vintage barn, early 1900s corn crib and an old-time livery stable.
This year's event will include these featured speakers:
• Don McKinley will speak at the opening event at 7 p.m. March 17. McKinley and his son-in-law, Marvin Huber, have created a 1930s agricultural museum in Quincy, Ill., filled with early farm implements they have been collecting. He will trace the evolution of farm equipment from the early settlers to present day.
• Dr. Jerry Apps, Wisconsin author, historian and PBS broadcaster, will be the keynote banquet speaker at 6 p.m. March 19. His presentation is titled "Rural Wit and Wisdom."
Workshop topics will include plows, combines, planters, decals, cooling systems, fine tuning a two-cylinder tractor, New Gen hydraulics and diesel repair and more.
With an estimated 2,500 visitors, Knobbe said the event traditionally has more than a $1 million economic impact on the Quad-City economy. To date, registrations indicate visitors from 40 different states and three foreign countries.
For more information or to register, visit gatheringofthegreen.com.
If You Go What: Gathering of the Green conference When: March 16-19 Workshop hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., March 17-19. Vendor hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., March 17 and 18; and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., March 19. The event opens with check-in and registration March 16 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and an opening night reception at 7 p.m. Where: RiverCenter, 136 E. 3rd St., Davenport Cost: $10 for a single day; $40 for full conference. Future Farmers of America and 4H students can attend for free by wearing clothing with the clubs’ logo. More information: firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text 563-886-7383.