Tractor show keeps agriculture museum humming
Posted: September 4, 2014 at 2:02 a.m.
Just one mile outside the North Little Rock city limits and five miles from Interstate 440 is another world -- one that disappeared more than 50 years ago.
The Plantation Agriculture Museum State Park stands at a crossroads in Scott, a tribute to the growth and importance of cotton agriculture. Cotton was the main cash crop in the state and, as museum curator Randy Noah explains, for decades, the state's economy hinged on the crop.
Antique Tractor & Engine Show
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Plantation Agriculture Museum, U.S. 165 and Arkansas 161, Scott
Admission is free
Yet once a year at the Antique Tractor & Engine Show, the museum starts humming with the sounds of gas engines as it celebrates the machines and technology that helped bring that world of plantations and old-world farming to an end.
This is the 22nd year for the show at which collectors and enthusiasts from all over the state gather on the museum's grounds to show off their treasures: old tractors, stationary gas engines, early farm equipment. Visitors get a chance to see how people kept farms and homes running in the days before everyone had electricity.
"We never know what we're going to get," Noah says. "It's a very relaxing, enjoyable time, listening to the engines run."
Some exhibitors provide demonstrations by cutting shingles or grinding corn. In the past, there have been engines that were used to pump water, cut shingles, grind corn, turn sewing machines. One year, a man brought a small steam engine that powered a popcorn popper.
"The exhibitors love to answer questions about their equipment," Noah says. "They often have a personal connection to it. They like to show off their equipment and what it can actually do."
There's no registration or advance warning required. Anyone who owns an old tractor or engine is welcome to show up. They do prefer pre-1960 equipment, but it's not a hard-and-fast rule: "We're not going to turn anyone away."
They've been well attended in the past, with quite a few regulars who always show up to visit and catch up after the long summer.
Noah says, "We've never had a problem with not having enough exhibitors. The grounds out here are usually crowded with equipment. There's always plenty for the public to see."
Engines aren't everyone's cup of tea, though, Noah says.
"A lot of people think, 'A tractor show? I don't want to go see a bunch of old tractors.' It's more than that. I think once they get out here they'll be amazed at the history."
The museum is crowded with exhibits on the labor-intensive, pre-mechanization agricultural methods involved in keeping a plantation or farm running.
They also have two outbuildings: a restored cotton gin and a restored cotton seed house.
This year, Noah says, the park interpreters are planning more hands-on activities, such as pedal tractors for children to ride and demonstrations in corn grinding and shelling.
It's easy to make a full day of it, too, with Toltec Mounds State Park just four miles down the road and several tasty and popular restaurants (for instance, Cotham's on Arkansas 161 or Charlotte's Eats and Sweets in Keo) nearby.
Attendance is weather-sensitive, but Noah says they always have a big crowd and people who come might just be surprised.
"I always try and tell people, 'Just come out and drop in for 10 or 15 minutes.' I bet they'll be hooked. They always are. They end up staying an hour, an hour and a half."
Weekend on 09/04/2014