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Club has a blast with Iowa’s past

By Staff | Sep 25, 2016

BOB NEPPL, president of the Northwest Iowa Classic Tractors club, thought these two Thieman tractors are special to the annual display at the Clay County Fair due to their unique looks, but also for the reason they were built in Albert City by the Thieman Harvester Co.

SPENCER – The Clay County Fair showcases the state-of-the-art brand new farm equipment, but it’s also a place where fair-goers can go back into time and see the machines used by the generations before them all thanks to a local antique tractor club.

The Northwest Iowa Classic Tractor club sponsors an annual display at the Clay County Fair where they showcase antique tractors and farm equipment.

Bob Neppl, president of the Northwest Iowa Classic Tractor club, said they had approximately 160 tractors and 40 pieces of antique farm equipment on display this year at the fair.

The showcase of old iron isn’t limited to members of the club, Neppl said. They welcome anyone with an old tractor or other antique implements to show.

Neppl described “old” as those tractors and farm equipment that were built around the 1970s and before and they also recommend the items either be in nice, original condition or restored.

KENNY GONNERMAN, of Spencer, stands next to one of his newly acquired tractors, which happened to be the oldest tractor on display at the Northwest Iowa Classic Tractor’s annual display at the Clay County Fair. Gonnerman’s tractor is a 1918 Wallis.

Neppl said they have wanted more equipment to display alongside the tractors, but ask that it is tractor-age related, as they do not want to display horse-drawn items.

He said they have been showing at the fair for about 20 years and the annual display continues to grow.

“We began down by the dairy barn with only a few tractors, then the Northwest Iowa Two-Cylinder club had a display by the grandstands for a while and now we are currently north of the Event Center right by the main (north) entrance,” said Neppl. “We are one of the first things you see when you are walking into the fair.”

Each year, Neppl said, the quality of tractors improve and the number of pieces that are shown each year is growing as well.

He said they like to encourage unique and rare tractors and implements to their show.

THIS 1957 INTERNATIONAL pickup truck was new to the Northwest Iowa Classic Tractors display at the Clay County Fair. It is owned by Dean Lundgren, of Estherville. Bob Neppl, president of the club, said they like to encourage unique items to be brought to the show.

This year, a 1957 International pickup, owned by Dean Lundgren, of Estherville, was on display which is something different than what has been shown in the past.

A pair of Thieman tractors were also on display.

Neppl said they are not only unique in their build, but he likes the fact they are on display at the fair because they were actually manufactured in Albert City.

Also new to the show is a tractor that is almost 100 years old.

The 1918 Wallis is a “new” tractor to Kenny Gonnerman, of Spencer.

Gonnerman said he purchased his tractor just three weeks ago on a farm sale near Greenville – a buy he could not resist.

He said he doesn’t believe there are too many tractors like this around, especially in the great condition it is in and still running.

Gonnerman said it actually used to be in the region for several years, so he thinks it’s great to get it back to where it used to be.

He said he plans on showing it at future Clay County Fair shows and any other opportunities that may arise.

“It is in great condition and it will be a show tractor for when those opportunities come,” he said. I might try to plow with it, just a little bit, but not much.”

Gonnerman and Neppl said they are happy to assist the tractor display. Not only do they enjoy seeing others’ antique equipment and displaying their own, but they like being on hand for giving out advice.

“We are here to help out and give out information too,” said Neppl.

Gonnerman said they are thrilled to see all ages interested in the restoration of antique tractors.

“We see guys that had these tractors for themselves, younger generations displaying tractors, and some inquiring about refurbishing tractors,” said Gonnerman.

Neppl said he has two grandsons that have restored antique tractors and they encourage younger people to restore and display their antique tractors, too.

“You go through all of that work, why leave it at home in the garage?” asked Gonnerman.

In addition to the Wallis, Gonnerman brought a 1970 John Deere 4020; a 1955 John Deere 70 Standard; a John Deere MC; 1941 John Deere D and a 1957 John Deere 820.

Neppl had several tractors and equipment on display including a 1953 John Deere MT with a John Deere 246 mounted planter; a 1953 John Deere 50 with a 1944 plow; a 1955 John Deere 70 with a 1955 plow; his wife, Linda’s 1952 John Deere NT that she won on a raffle in New York.

But it’s a 1968 John Deere 3020, Neppl said that’s an especially important tractor for him.

“I bought that tractor 11 years ago and it originally was my dad’s,” said Neppl. “The owner’s manual had my dad’s name on it and I was told I was the one that wrote that on there.”

Neppl said he hopes that tractor forever stays in his family from here on out and he already has plans for the next generation to take it.

For more information on the Northwest Iowa Classic Tractor club and their annual display at the Clay County Fair, e-mail Bob Neppl at blneppl@evertek.net or call him at (712) 221-9211; or contact John Metcalf at 712) 260-3617.

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