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Ag's memory lane leads to Rantoul

An old combine at the 2017 Half Century of Progress in Rantoul / CIFN file photo.

RANTOUL – Visitors will come from near and far to the old Chanute Air Force base in Rantoul this weekend.

The Half Century of Progress Show, billed as the world’s largest vintage working farm show, starts Thursday and runs through Sunday. Daily demonstrations, tractor pulls and tractor drives are featured on the expansive grounds.

“Last time, I kept track of the states from which people had traveled and I counted 33 states and two Canadian provinces,” recalls event co-founder Max Armstrong. “I think there were about four other nations from which people traveled to be at the show.”

Half Century is held every other year in east central Illinois – the same years that the Farm Progress Show is in Decatur the following week. The idea started back in 2003 when FPS celebrated its 50th anniversary at a show site in Vermilion County. The show manager wanted old tractors there so well-known Champaign County farmer Darius Harms became involved.

Harms knew everyone, according to Armstrong.

“Getting Darius involved was a big thing because nobody could tell him no. He was just one of those people that reached out to everybody and said, ‘I know you have that corn picker can you bring it?’ Everybody showed up and had a delightful time.”

More than 500 golf carts have been reserved for the show’s opening day alone with many more to be rented out throughout the four-day event. Visitors can also bring their own golf carts for a fee which is good for the whole weekend.

A show highlight includes the massive tractor known as Earthquake. The 750 horsepower machine is owned by an Ohio farmer and will be pulling some big plows which is quite the spectacle. Also, volunteer fire departments are encouraged to bring old trucks to Rantoul for display.

“When you ask a question about a piece of equipment, you need to allocate a little extra time because sometimes you get a little more story than you bargained for,” added Armstrong.

More information can be found online at or by calling the information hotline at 217-595-5000.

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