Expo in New Boston features antique tractors, family fun

Friday, August 22, 2014



NEW BOSTON – The New England John Deere Expo will return to the spacious property at the Hillsborough County 4-H Youth Center, an agricultural activities area for kids at 15 Hilldale Lane, Route 13.

The event, from Friday-Sunday, Aug. 22-24, is sponsored by the Northeast Two-Cylinder Tractor Club and the Hillsborough 4-H Club. Antique John Deere farm tractors will be showcased to herald the machinery whose earliest ancestor was a polished-steel plow designed in 1837 by John Deere, an inventor and blacksmith from Illinois.

Food, vendors, games for kids, exhibits, a scavenger hunt, demonstrations and opportunities for camping offer something for everyone. An addition this year will be machines from International, Farmall and McCormick-Deering.

Bob Hayden, a Hollis resident who has been a board member of the Hillsborough County Youth Center Foundation since 1994, said the property serves as a host setting for a multitude of gatherings. It is the venue for the Hillsborough County Agricultural Fair, coming Friday-Sunday, Sept. 5-7, and other events, including blues festivals, barn dances, 4-H functions and private gatherings, such as family reunions, weddings, corporate events and more.

The nonprofit foundation owns the more than 100 acres.

“We try to accommodate as many groups as we can to offset expenses,” Hayden said. “We even rent out our two barns each winter for storage of campers, vintage cars, and boats and such.

“The primary focus is maintaining a facility for the kids to use for programs that teach about animals, farming and agriculture.”

The Northeast Two-Cylinder Club has about 125 members. It was founded in 1987 to promote the preservation and restoration of old-time John Deere two-cylinder tractors, the cherished helpmate of the country’s farmers before modernizations in the late 1950s.

Antique tractor pulls, tractor shows and tractor parades are some of the anticipated activities at the expo. Hayden said the weekend draws people from many states.

Hayden and his son, Chris, own three of the two-cylinder workhorses – a 1931 model, a 1942 and a 1944. He said the oldest is used almost every day on the family’s farm, which is dedicated mostly to sheep and goats.

“Not long ago, there was a John Deere that was brought up from Florida, and one from Arizona,” Hayden said. “We regularly have antique tractors from the early 1920s through the 1950s.”

Mike Chase, a Brookline resident who is the first vice chairman of the Hillsborough County Youth Center Foundation, called the event fun and exciting.

“It’s a weekend when everyone comes together to show their hobbies and have some friendly competing,” Chase said. “The exhibitors are a friendly, informative bunch of people. Anyone with the slightest interest in older mechanized farming is sure to have a great time.”

Tom Miller, who was raised in Amherst and graduated from Milford High School, and who is a member of the Northeast Two-Cylinder Tractor Club, said the show is the largest in New England.

“You don’t have to own tractors to enjoy the event,” Miller said. “We have various events, demonstrations, seminars, vendors, food and fun activities to appeal to kids and adults alike.”

Miller said most people are so far removed from the old ways of farming that seeing the machines and what they do is a new experience for most visitors.

“Take hay, for instance,” Miller said. “Today, we have big, round bales. Back in the 1930s, it wasn’t that way. They pitch-forked hay by hand into a machine called a hay press that squeezed it into bales. Then, they had to tie the bales by hand. We’re going to have some of those demonstrations.”

Additional enticements scheduled are a shingle-cutting mill powered by a John Deere engine, a corn chopper from the 1930s, a collection of old cord-wood saws from the 1930s and other implements rarely seen nowadays.

Miller said the tractor games are a big attraction: Put on a hard hat topped with a shallow plate filled with water, mount your tractor, drive it through an obstacle course and dismount without spilling any water. Time and water loss are the deciding factors in victory.

Bill Footer, of Merrimack, said he owns a John Deere lawn tractor and a Farmall Cub.

“I’ve had one for 30 years, “ Footer said. “I wore the first one out, so I went out and bought another one.”

Brian Hawkins, of Milford, a Tractor Supply Co. associate, is a longtime John Deere tractor aficionado. He said the level of loyalty of those who admire the brand is remarkable.

“When you get someone that likes John Deere, they love John Deere,” Hawkins said. “They are dedicated to their John Deere. Customers are loyal to the products. We sell a lot of the John Deere toys, and people come here especially for them.”

Hawkins pointed out some of the John Deere tractor replicas, mostly made of metal or heavy-duty plastic. Nearby, a display of baby booties, children’s socks, ladies T-shirts and apparel for men bear the company’s logo.

“We have a huge selection,” Hawkins said. “People come in and say, ‘Wow.’ ”

Activities sure to earn a wow include pedal tractor games and a farm animal petting zoo for kids. The tractor parade is a camera-ready opportunity to share with friends on social media.

A silent auction and raffle will feature scores of prizes. A pig roast, spaghetti supper and chicken barbecue entail a modest donation.

Major sponsors are Nashua Outdoor Power & Equipment and D&L Vintage Tractors, of Haverhill.

Hours are 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. There is ample free parking, and children younger than 12 are admitted free. Others pay $5 to enter.

For more information, visit or newenglandjohndeereexpo on Facebook, or call Miller at 487-3883.

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