Already a subscriber? Log in
- Unparalleled business coverage of the Iowa City / Cedar Rapids corridor.
- Immediate access to subscriber-only content on our website.
- 52 issues per year delivered digitally, in print or both.
- Support locally owned and operated journalism.
It’s been a long haul but the Gathering of the Green Conference and its strong following of John Deere aficionados are returning this month to the Quad Cities for the first time since 2018. The biennial conference – which claims to be the world’s largest gathering of antique John Deere collectors, restorers and enthusiasts – will roar back into the Davenport RiverCenter from Wednesday to Saturday, March 16-19. The event was canceled in 2020 at the last minute due to the COVID-19 outbreak when all events and travel came to a standstill. About 1,050 participants have already registered for the full four-day conference, which when combined with walk-in visitors typically draws in about 3,000 attendees. “I’m very optimistic (about attendance) because of the pent up demand and now that COVID is subdued,” said Tony Knobbe, the board chairman for Gathering of the Green. Mr. Knobbe is confident the event will hit 3,000 again this year because of an influx of those who come for a single day visit and an overnight stay. “I think our ‘any day’ crowd will be as strong or even stronger than before,” he said. In fact, the conference’s real growth in recent years has been with day visitors – those traveling from a 100- to 200-mile radius, he added. Organizers said this year’s show already has representation from 32 U.S. states and four countries. Although Mr. Knobbe said COVID-19 travel restrictions are keeping the normal crowd of Canadian collectors from attending this year. The conference’s theme, “It’s Fair Time!,” was originally to be the 2020 conference theme and salutes the rich history of state and county fairs of the 1930s-1970s. “It will look like you’re going to the fair when you go into the RiverCenter” with the themed displays and decor, he added. This year’s Gathering not only marks a welcome return of the popular event but will bring some new events and activities. Among them is the first Plow City Tractor Show from March 16-18 in the Iowa Building at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport. The show will feature a diverse selection of tractors, implements, engines, lawn and garden tractors and memorabilia to honor the Quad Cities’ agricultural manufacturing heritage with rare pieces from John Deere, Rock Island Plow Company, Root & Vandervoort, Heider, J.I. Case, International Harvester, and Minneapolis Moline. The companies all had Quad Cities roots or a strong presence in the region in their heyday. A Friday night social event, known as Beers and Bullgears, will be held at the RiverCenter featuring Mr. Knobbe in an interview-style format with Sandy Hewitt, the great-great-great grandson of John Deere. In a separate, but related event, Gathering attendees also can see the auction lineup for Mecum’s upcoming Gone Farmin’ Spring Class Auction at the Bend XPO, East Moline. Mr. Knobbe said the auction is not until March 24, but visitors can see the equipment going on the auction block. This marks the 11th biennial show for the Gathering of the Green, founded in 2000 – with one canceled show in 2020. The volunteer-led event is planned and produced by antique tractor enthusiasts from the Deer Valley Collectors, Illinois Valley Two-Cylinder Club, North Eastern Illinois Twin-Cylinder Club, Northwest Illinois Deer Collectors Club, and the Classic Green Club. However, Mr. Knobbe stressed the key role Visit Quad Cities provides in assisting with registration and event logistics. “We’ve had huge support from Visit Quad Cities and its staff,” he added. He also said volunteers from the Classic Green, a virtual club of John Deere collectors, also are helping staff the Gathering this year. He estimated that the Gathering has drawn more than 20,000 visitors and attendees since it began. “Gathering of the Green is a valuable opportunity for the Quad Cities to serve as host community,” Dave Herrell, Visit Quad Cities’ president and CEO said in a news release. “The rich tradition of this unique event and the passion that people around the world have for Deere & Company makes the Gathering very special.” Full conference registration can be purchased for $40 on-site at the RiverCenter on Wednesday, March 16 – that day is only open for full conference registrants. From Thursday-Saturday, March 17-19, visitors can purchase $10 day passes at the door for access to the displays, workshops, vendor hall, and Plow City Tractor Show. To attend only the Plow City Tractor Show, daily admission is $5 for the general public. Show hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 17-18. Full conference attendees also can tour a number of agricultural sites across the Quad Cities region and beyond, but the traditional factory tours at Deere & Co.’s Iowa and Illinois facilities have been canceled this year due to COVID restrictions. For more information, visit gatheringofthegreen.com.