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Appreciating of the Agricultural Heritage of Hendricks County

By Nichole Meloche

At the 1994 Hendricks County Fair, Bert Thralls wanted to see how many people would be interested in forming a club that focused on antique tractors. Thralls was amazed at the amount of people who expressed an interest in the club. On Jan. 20, 1995, the Hendricks County Antique Tractor and Machinery Association had its first ever meeting, with 164 members in attendance.

The Hendricks County Antique Tractor and Machinery Association is widely recognized for their participation in local parades. Attend the Pittsboro Fourth of July Parade and you’ll see an endless stream of tractors driving along the parade route. Visit the Hendricks County Fair and you’ll find dozens of antique tractors on display for viewing. Take a trip to the Indiana State Fair and see the bundles of wheat at the Pioneer Village that were harvested by the association in early July.

The HCATMA shares their mission statement of teaching and promoting an appreciation of the men and women who have participated in the agricultural history of Hendricks County.

Cover Photo: John Stegemoller, President, Hendricks County Antique Tractor & Machinery Association, Inc., Lou Ann Beeson, executive secretary, and Jim Elsbury, member (Photo by Todd Travis)

“It is the goal of the association to encourage the collecting, restoration, and display of all makes and types of antique agricultural equipment that was used in this area,” states the mission statement created in 1995. “The association will also promote the preservation and recording of all other aspects of farm life and encourage the research of all phases of rural life. It is the goal of the association to encourage communication between the members and the public about our collection in particular, and farm life in general.”

Each January, the association kicks off the year with a banquet. The association’s president, along with the three most recent “Members of the Year” choose a member to recognize. Special recognition awards are given out and new association officers are elected. When the officers are sworn in, they take their oath by placing their hand on an antique toy tractor.

On the first Saturday of March, the association hosts their Annual Consignment Auction. Association members auction off their tractors and farming equipment. Members of the club will often donate food to prepare a meal for members at the auction.

The Association’s Annual Plow Day event. (Photo provided by Lou Ann Beeson.)

June and July are the busiest months for the association. They participate in every town parade and Fourth of July event with a float and club tractors. The Hendricks County Fair is the biggest event for them.

“We start to prepare for it many weeks before,” said member Brad Beeson. “Our club has a very big presence at the fair. We have a straw maze and a large tractor tire filled with corn for the kids. Tractors and equipment are on display. Opening day starts with breakfast served at the tent, then church service. The rest of the week is spent sitting around the tent promoting our club and storytelling. The last day of the fair we have a pitch-in dinner. Our club members also donate their time to drive the courtesy shuttles for the fair.”

“Some of my favorite memories are seeing the kid’s faces when they touch corn or a straw bale for the first time,” said Thralls. “Sometimes it’s the parents’ first time too. Going to the parades and seeing the kid’s faces when they see our tractors for the first time. Mostly I enjoy making new friends and the fellowship and support we all give each other at all events.”

With harvest season quickly approaching, the association stresses the importance of patience and understanding with the local farmers. Drivers may encounter a tractor driving on the road while on their morning commute.

An association member teaches students about tractors at a local school for Agriculture Day. (Photo provided by Lou Ann Beeson.)

“We would like to encourage people to be patient with the farmer on the road,” said Thralls. “Without them, we would be a very hungry country.”

Family memberships for the association are $15 for a year. Single event participation, such as for the annual Tractor Run, are available for around $5. The association hosts a meeting the first Tuesday of each month at 7:30 at the Hendricks County 4-H complex.

“You don’t have to have a tractor to be a member,” said Thralls. “We want people who have an interest in socializing, preserving and educating our agricultural history and the old ways of doing things.”

For more information or to join the association, visit HCATMA.com or contact membership chairperson Lou Ann Beeson at lab5812@sbcglobal.net.

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