Electricity show sparks indoor farm spectacular

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In 1963, the University of Kentucky and the region’s rural electric co-ops sponsored an electricity demonstration and exhibit for farmers in a warehouse in west Lexington.

The sparks ignited and now, forty years later, the agricultural spotlight shines each February on Louisville, Ky., for the annual National Farm Machinery Show, the largest indoor farm show in the country.

Officially, this year’s show, which was held Feb. 12-15, was the 38th anniversary show, marking the year the show moved to the state fairgrounds in Louisville.

That early electricity demonstration quickly expanded to include more types of power than just electricity.

Allis Chalmers was the first major agricultural machinery exhibitor in Louisville.

Early promoter. “When they (the planning committee) saw what it all looked like, we wanted to expand it into a larger farm show to include all agricultural areas,” said Blaine Parker, former head of the University of Kentucky’s ag engineering department who coordinated those first electric demonstrations and exhibits.

“I told them if they wanted to attract farm people from outside Kentucky, we ought to call it the National Farm Machinery Show.”

The show was officially named in 1966.

Right formula. The show does indeed attract farm people from outside Kentucky. Attendance figures weren’t available at presstime, but last year’s show drew 298,000 people from across the Midwest, South, Mid-Atlantic states and foreign countries.

The 2002 show had an economic impact of $19 million to the Greater Louisville area.

Huge show. The 800 exhibitors fill more than 1 million square feet of indoor display space – and visitors never have to go outside to move from building to building. There are commercial booths in huge exhibit buildings and small side hallways. Anywhere there’s room for a table, there’s an exhibitor.

Numerous information booths help keep even the first-time show visitor from getting lost. Or at least not for long.

The major ag equipment manufacturers were all there, but visitors could also find just about everything else. There were gun safes, metal polish, breakaway tractor mirrors, cattle chutes, seed corn, soil additives, shirts, toys and samples of Udder Cream, just to sample the cornucopia of ag items displayed.

And for those tractor pull fans who came for the nightly Championship Tractor Pull heats, there were ear plugs (not exactly a deal at a buck for a little foam pair) and safety glasses, as well as videotapes of last year’s championship. (See page C1 for a roundup of this year’s pull finals.)

Educational seminars. The University Kentucky hosted its first precision agriculture conference Feb. 13 during the show. It focused on break-even considerations; capital costs and farm size; tools; and included discussions on what to do with all the information.

Farm Journal Media sponsored three seminars during the show, two featuring Farm Journal economist Bob Utterback.

The farm television show AgDay, which airs on more than 100 broadcast affiliates nationwide, was taped live at the show Feb. 14. Show host Al Pell was joined by Utterback; Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Billy Ray Smith; Bower Trading President Jim Bower; and Mark Gold, managing director of EHedger.

farmers in the audience could pose questions directly to the panelists.

John Deere also sponsored two seminars for producers during the show.

Seeing green. There were times when the show seemed like a sea of green – John Deere green. Visitors were wearing everything John Deere, from hats to embroidered farm jackets, and toting anything green, from purses to a little green John Deere wagon hauling the kids.

Of course, you could buy everything John Deere green there, too, from mailboxes and outdoor hanging plant poles to miniature farm toys on up to gigantic combines.

Green wasn’t the only color to see and be seen in, as visitors showed their true colors and favorites with other major tractor and equipment lines, too.

See for yourself. Next year’s show dates are Feb. 11-14, 2004.


Related site: www.farmmachineryshow.org

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