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1962 Farm Progress Show–

By Staff | Aug 24, 2012

CHUCK SCHRODER reflects on the 1962 Farm Progress Show that drew upward of 100,000 people to his farming neighborhood in Section 23 of Blairburg Township, in Hamilton?County. The barn behind him housed the National Guard’s horses, he said.

By LARRY KERSHNER

“mailto:kersh@farm-news.com”>kersh@farm-news.com

BLAIRSBURG – Even though 2012 is the 59th year for the Farm Progress Show, this year notes the 50th anniversary since the show was held in a cornfield a mile north of Blairsburg in Hamilton?County.

The farm belonged to Everett Smith, in the southwest corner of section 23 of Blairsburg Township. According to those who were there, it was a big deal then.

Chuck Schroder, 71, who farms across the road from the Smith farm, said he was just discharged from the Navy and needed a job. Hiring on with local farmer Maynard Fitch, Schroder ended up doing various jobs to assist the set-up for the 1962 show.

AN AERIAL view of the 1962 Farm Progress Show, set up in the fields belonging to Everett Smith, a mile north of Blairsburg. The photo is part of the Smith family’s collection.There was parking for hundreds of cars on the left and top of photo. An estimated 100,000 people attended the show.

He said the local rural electric company strung power lines to the site. Extra telephone lines were also provided, plus myriad improvements made to the farm.

Schroder said Smith benefited from the seed that was donated and planted by a variety of companies in test plots, chemical inputs were donated and applied and companies provided combining and silage demonstrations, all of which were handed over to Smith for the use of his land that year.

Schroder said his father, Harold Schroder, provided his barn to stable the National Guard’s horses, which provided security for the event, and International Harvester planted a cornfield test plot north of the Schroders’ home and used it to test a new combine prior to the show.

“North of that was a pasture,” Chuck Schroder said, “where people camped.”

He said other neighboring farms were used for other services, including some with grassed runways to shuttle show officials and company representatives to and from the area.

This corn field, looking northwest from the former Everett?Smith farm in Section 23 of Blairsburg Township in Hamilton County, was where much of the Farm Progress Show was set up in 1962. This is the 50th anniversary of the Blairsburg farm hosting the event.

He said the now-famous Farmall tractor dance originated at the 1962 Farm Progress Show.

“There were a lot of nice people around,” he said.

He recalls that Jeeps were used by show workers to move around the grounds.

A bevy of local churches were contacted to provide food booths at the show.

Schroder, now a self-described hobby farmer and winter snowbird, said his recollections of the three-day show itself was that people lined up at the gate early to get each morning.

FARMERS GATHER for final instructions for planting a total of 250 test plots of corn in the spring of 1962, preparing for field demonstrations for the Farm Progress Show that fall.

All of the major farm-related companies and manufacturers of the day were represented.

And different churches were given exclusive food vending rights at the show.

“They took in an awful lot of money,” he said.

Viora Welsh, whose family rented a farm two miles to the west, worked packaging and selling boxed lunches in the food booth of the Congregational Church, now called the United Church of Christ Congregation.

“It was so funny,” Welsh said, “we never did this before.”

JEEPS WERE THE way show officials moved around the extensive grounds. Everett Smith’s daughter, Kathleen Smith, 16, sits behind the wheel, accompanied by her brother, LeeClair Smith, 12. In the background is a Hi-Boy sprayer that Everett Smith used to spray the test plots during the growing season.

She said at first each person rushed to fill a box with a sandwich, a bar, chips and an apple.

“Everyone was in each other’s way, bumping against each other,” she said. “I thought there had to be a better way. So she organized an assembly line, where the box moved down the row, with each person placing one of the four food items into it.

The process brought order to the chaos, she said.

Due to the crush of people waiting on the main roads to enter each morning, she said the church used a small lane from the west to gain access to the grounds.

One of the attractions was helicopter rides, of which one of her children took advantage.

“I remember Bell Telephone gave away little telephone key chains,” Welsh said. “We had those around the house quite awhile.”

She said the whole event was a family-friendly affair. “Children were everywhere,” she said.

The church was kept so busy, she said, there was little time to get out and see the show itself.

“It was a big crowd for this little town,” she said.

Iowa has hosted 16 of the 59 Farm Progress Show events.

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