04/24/11 — Farm equipment will be on display at fairgrounds as part of show

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Farm equipment will be on display at fairgrounds as part of show

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 24, 2011 1:50 AM

The days of small tractors tilling and plowing the land might be gone, but the Eastern Carolina Vintage Farm Equipment Club aims to keep the tractors running and the memories fresh.

Club President Larry Lassiter said reminding the public of farm history is the purpose of the club's Antique Farm Equipment Days, a weekend of events in its 10th year. The two-day event is scheduled for May 6 and 7 at the Wayne County fairgrounds.

"What we want to do is to get a lot of people to see this stuff because it's a dying thing," he said. "If somebody doesn't keep on going with it -- these tractors and stuff like that -- nobody's gonna know what they are."

Lassiter said that technological advances and shifts in the farming business model have pulled farmers away from the small, one-farm tractors of yesteryear like he and his fellow club members display at shows.

"The thing about it is that farmers this day and time use big tractors with air-conditioned cabs," he said. "You've got a whole lot less farmers than you had, but they're tending a lot more acreages, so they've got to have the big equipment to do that with."

While he said restoration of the tractors can sometimes be costly, his club has more than 100 members who gladly repair and rebuild tractors and engines to their original, working condition for more than 30 shows per year.

"You've got to find all the parts and put the pieces back together," Lassiter said of the difficulty of restoring vintage farm equipment that can seem daunting to those less dedicated. "It's something you've got to want to do."

Proceeds from the event's concessions, which will include breakfast biscuits in the morning and burgers and hot dogs at lunchtime, will go toward the club's FFA scholarships, which are awarded to high school students in the southeastern region. The free event will help to supplement funds the club receives from other exhibitions throughout the year to support the scholarship.

The 10-year-old club has provided the scholarships for the past eight years and this year's event will mark the 11th annual show, which boast lots of activities for children.

Events scheduled include a pedal-tractor pull, a pedal-tractor race and a barrel train that will run all day. Lassiter said another fun event is the "coin toss," though it's hardly a game of heads or tails. He said a club member throws a handful of quarters into some hay and lets the kids loose to scavenge for the 25-cent needles in the haystack.

He said it's all apart of the club's mission to preserve and restore antique farm equipment and to educate youths about North Carolina's farming heritage.

"If the older people don't teach the younger people and if the younger people aren't interested in learning, it's going to be a dying thing like the dinosaur," he said. "We're looking to get some young people. I'm 59 years old and I'm one of the youngest ones in the club."

There is a 15-year-old in the club whose grandfather has been in the club since its founding, but the club needs more exposure and members to accomplish its mission, Lassiter said.

"If they'll just come out, they'll enjoy it," he said. "We've always had tremendous amounts of exhibitors."

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday with the opening ceremony slated for 10 a.m. Saturday and the Parade of Power at 11 a.m. featuring all of the running tractors looping around the fairgrounds in formation.