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Views and opinions: Festival and tractor show entertain this Illinois town


Clouds scudded across the sky, but this didn’t daunt the crowd that gathered for the Virginia, Ill., barbecue and parade on June 2. A lineup of floats and pickup trucks were at the front of the parade, and a group of antique tractors with Carl Davis on a John Deere lawn and garden model rounded up the rear of the procession.

On the square in the town of Virginia, barbecue, hotdogs and pork chops were being cooked and served under a huge tent while a carnival was in full swing – until the rain came around noon, shutting down the rides. One of the beautiful Farmalls on display, a 1957 350, belonged to Donny Perkins and the other to C. Allan Perkins and Charlotte Watkins – they were driving a 1949 Farmall C.

Donny had just recently restored his 350 and was excited to show it to the former owner, who had bought it new. Jim Fox posed in front of the tractor, along with the director of the nursing home in which he now lives.

“I bought the tractor new from the Kenny International Harvester dealership here in Virginia in 1957. I’m a retired farmer, and I was an ag teacher before that. I owned one John Deere, but mostly was an IH guy,” Jim said.

In addition to the festival, Norm Wert had his own antique tractor show in town, on a lot he owns. “This is the third year,” he explained. “The big Virginia barbecue was this weekend, and I thought we’d add this to it. Most of the tractors are mine and the garden tractors are Carl Davis’.”

Norm said there were not as many collectors this year because of graduations and other events. Besides the tractors, he also had a nice collection of hit-and-miss engines. Some of the collectors who brought tractors and engines like Norm and his wife, Rosemary, and daughter, Nora, were also members of the Prairieland group out of Jacksonville.

“I’ve been collecting for about 10 to 12 years,” he said. “Deere is my choice of brand. I have a family farm near here that was established in 1862. My grandpa did have a couple of International Harvester tractors, but the he graduated to John Deere, and it got in my blood.”

Norm started out with garden tractors, but they got pushed to the side when he got hooked on hit-and-miss engines. He also collects the ones that Deere sold, like the Root and Vandervoort engine and Waterloo engines.

“I have corn shellers too,” he noted. It was Nora who interested him in the sheller hobby. “We have an original Sandwich corn sheller that was used on our farm and I started collecting more. I have a nice New Idea and some IH; my wife says I have enough now,” Norm laughed.

Nora added, “I claim the John Deere M tractor; it is a 1951, I call it my baby tractor, and I claim the JD 730 – it was my Grandpa Orville Wert’s tractor, who has passed on. Grandpa bought it new in 1958.”


Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication. Learn more of Cindy’s finds and travel in her blog, “Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl,” at