Tractors take center state at Folk Festival

October 20, 2003|by DON AINES

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - Looking like a Chrysler PT Cruiser on steroids, the advertising line for the 1938 Minneapolis-Moline UDXL could have been "Own Tomorrow's Tractor, Today."

With its enclosed cab, heater, radio and other amenities, the machine was ahead of its time, but it had another function that never really caught on, according to Paul Schmidt of the Grease, Steam and Rust Association.

"It was designed to be your tractor, as well as your transportation into town, or to take your family to church on Sunday," said Schmidt, the chairman of the association. On a good road, the UDXL could do about 40 mph, he said.


People from across the country came to McConnellsburg for this year's 23rd Grease, Steam and Rust show at the Fulton County Fairgrounds to look over and show off their tractors and farm machinery made by Minneapolis-Moline, a line that became extinct in the early 1970s as the company was absorbed into other manufacturers through mergers.

The three-day show was one of the many attractions of the Fulton Fall Folk Festival.

Only about 160 of the UDXL models - the last three letters standing for deluxe - were made, and about half of them still are known to exist, Schmidt said. They were pricey in their day at $2,350.

The owner of the 1938 machine, Francis Sutherland of Harrisville, Pa., said he first offered to buy the tractor in 1950. The family that owned it finally said yes in 1974.

Schmidt said visitors from as far away as Oregon and exhibitors from Maine to Wisconsin attended the Prairie Rush Gold Convention that was held in conjunction with the association's annual event. Prairie gold was the signature deep yellow color of the Minneapolis-Moline line.

Jim Skinner of Mercersburg, Pa., brought 33 of his machines to the show, Schmidt said.

There were plenty of other models at the show. David Bivens of Big Cove Tannery, Pa., was chugging along on a 1929 kerosene-powered Hart-Parr.

"I'm a tractor nut," Bivens admitted. Bivens would not say how many tractors he has, but the collection includes a couple of steam models, and he has been collecting them for more than two decades.

"Saved a lot of them from the junk man," he said.

Paul Keefer of Needmore, Pa., and his son, Donald, have restored 42 tractors over the years. He showed off a picture of the 1940 Minneapolis-Moline the way it looked when they found it in a junkyard about 10 years ago.

A few minutes later, Donald was driving it out to the reviewing stand to pick up the Best of Show prize.

The 1916 Frick Co. Eclipse that Kelly Frantz of Waynesboro, Pa., was tending long had been forgotten before the association came to the rescue. It was in a patch of woods on a farm and "had trees growing up through the spokes of the wheels," she said.

Paul Keefer said he and his son restore all brands of tractors - John Deere, Silver King, Farmall and Case among them - since the association highlights a different manufacturer every year.

Ford-New Holland will take center stage at the 2004 show, Schmidt said.

Near the tractor exhibits, Mary Kauffman of Saltillo, Pa., in Huntingdon County, and two of her grandchildren had just come down from their first helicopter ride, another festival attraction.

"My daughter says bungee jumping is next for me," Kauffman said.

"I didn't go up," said daughter Karin Bailey of State College, Pa.

A few blocks away, at the intersection of Third Street and Maple Avenue, a singer crooned out the George Jones classic, "He Stopped Loving Her Today," while shoppers toured a closed street bracketed by vendors. Down the street, Humberto Morales played the Bette Midler standard, "Wind Beneath My Wings," on the pan flute at a stand selling South American clothing and crafts.

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