‘Gathering’ attracts Deere fans, stirs farm memories

Thousands of John Deere machinery fans continue to gather in the Quad Cities for the 2022 Gathering of the Green Conference.

Two men look over John Deere riding lawn mowers on display Wednesday, March 16, during the opening day of the Gathering of the Green event. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

The conference, which began Wednesday, March 16, and runs through Saturday, March 19, is largely being held at the RiverCenter in downtown Davenport. The event brings together thousands of fans, collectors and enthusiasts of John Deere tractors and other machinery.

But during a tour of the opening hours of the conference on Wednesday, it became apparent that green machinery and parts are not the only main features to the show. For many people, it’s all about the memories.

“I started mowing hay when I was 10 years old. Can you imagine that? I can’t imagine a 10-year-old doing that today,” said Larry Frederick, 77, of Dickens, Nebraska, as he looked over some of the antique John Deere machinery on display Wednesday. “But I was just dying to do it. I was pulling two mowers and a rake. My dad was following me to make sure I was doing OK.”

In another corner of the RiverCenter, Vernon Conrad of Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, looked over some of the machinery on display. It took him back to some family history beginning in the 1920s. “My dad started farming in 1929. He farmed his whole life with this machinery,” he added. “There’s a lot of history on display here.”

Event organizers have acknowledged the conference is a trip down memory lane for many people. The event, which has the theme “It’s Fair Time,” is meant to bring up some happy memories of the past.

A visitor looks at a John Deere tractor on display at the Gathering of the Green conference. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

The theme, organizers say, will stir memories when farm kids could take a “precious week off from walking beans” to look over games, carnival rides and John Deere tractors at the local fair.

Conference organizers put it this way in a welcoming letter to attendees: “Taking you back in time to your youth, when these beautiful machines were new, and proudly displayed at your county, regional or state fair. The sights, sounds, smells and tactile experience are rolled out for your lustful pleasure.”

In addition to the memories, the pleasure for many people on opening day was getting a look at everything made by Deere.

The RiverCenter is filled with neatly displayed antique tractors and other farm equipment. In one corner is a 1970 Deere 4020 tractor that belongs to Bob and Tammy Smith of Prophetstown, Illinois. The tractor’s original price was $10,345. That tractor sits next to a Model 18 corn picker that is “an ideal picker for the smaller acreage corn growth,” an advertisement said.

But the displays are not limited to machines of the ag world. There are also Deere toys, lawn mowers, space heaters and electric trimmers on display.

A yellow John Deere tractor is among the displays at the 2022 Gathering of the Green, which runs through Saturday at the RiverCenter, Davenport. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

“For me, I’m here to look at anything that’s green or maybe yellow,” Albert Michel of Butler, Pennsylvania, said referring to some of the yellow Deere tractors on display.

Mr. Michel added that he has attended the conference for many years and was especially happy to be at this year’s event. That’s because the 2020 Gathering of the Green was canceled because of the pandemic.

This year’s Gathering of the Green appears to be off to a fast start. As of  late Wednesday, there were about 1,000 people registered for the conference, representing 32 states and four countries, said Dave Herrell,  president and CEO of Visit Quad Cities.

Mr. Herrell added that he has heard many positive comments from conference-goers. “You can see all the smiles and you can feel the passion for all things Deere,” he added.

In addition to RiverCenter venue, this year’s event features the first Plow City Tractor Show at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, Davenport. This show features Deere machinery, as well as competitors with a Quad Cities connection, such as International Harvester, Minneapolis Moline, Case, Rock Island Plow, Root and Vandervoort.

The Gathering of the Green continues through Saturday, March 19. Here are some of the many features scheduled for the event:

  • More than 75 vendors will be on hand featuring feature toys, clothing, new and used arts, tractor manuals and much more.
  • There will be more than 60 workshops at the conference including plow setup, hydraulics, cooling systems, transmissions, two-cylinder and new tractors.
  • Tractors and other machinery are on display at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds as part of the Plow City Tractor Show. That show is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Friday. There is a free shuttle service to the fairgrounds.
  • The banquet will be Saturday, March 19, in the North Mississippi Hall, RiverCenter. Doors open at 5 p.m. Program and dinner begin at 6 p.m. The banquet keynote speaker will be Don “Mac” McKinley, a founding Gathering of the Green board member.

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