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Saturday, May 15, 2021

WMATMA: Great beginnings part I

As we prepare to welcome back the annual show next month, Mid America Live will be providing a series of articles regarding the roots of this local organization that has gained nationwide recognition


A brief history of

The Western Missouri Antique Tractor and Machinery Association INC

of Adrian Mo 

 

By Don Arndt

 

 Lately, several folks have been asking how WMATMA and the Village got started. I will start with the organization and this will be a very simplified history.

  In 1975 a small group of 6 men gathered together during the annual tractor pull which was a fund raiser for the Adrian Mo Optimist Club. These men put on a tiny show as part of the event using their vintage antique tractors. They gathered with six very old tractors brought back from being abandoned in fence rows decades earlier. Each one had been brought back to life for this special occasion where they had a special part of the “tractor pulling show” along with modern farm tractors. 

 The crowd had responded favorably with the little show that had included an old Wallis, an F20 Farmall, a G John Deere, a B John Deere, a GP John Deere. After the event, there seemed to be an immediate growing interest in antique farm equipment.

Ilate 1975 when Calvin Field and Don Arndt started talkingabout forming a “club” of old farm equipment ownersAgathering of about 20 men met at the George Sollars farm under a shade tree where it was unanimously decided to proceed with the formation of the club. A board of 6 men, being led by Don Arndt President and Calvin Field serving as Treasurer and secretary were elected. 

Appropriately, the group was formed sitting on buckets, tree stumps and baled hay at the end of a wheat field sitting next to a 1930 tractor. 

  By the 1976 Bi-Centennial celebration, several pieces of antique farm equipment had been brought back to life by these individuals.  The little group made a great showing for the 200thyear anniversary of the nation.

 The club had grown rapidly and within a couple of years had grown to the size that it was decided to Incorporate as a not for profit and to have a “show at the Adrian City Park featuring their old equipment which many had restored to their original beautyThreshing machines, sawmills, grain mills, plows and every kind of farm machine was included.

In late July 1979, the newly formed Western Missouri Antique Tractor and Machinery Association Inc held their first three-dayshow, and it was deemed a huge success. 

In late 1981, discussions with the City of Adrian began concerning the use of the abandoned acreage on the East edge of the town. In September of 1982 an agreement was made, and the annual event was moved to the present-day show grounds. The grounds were reclaimed from buck brush, shrubs, trees and being dumping ground for years. Members cleaned it up and plowed the entire acreage, disked it, and seeded it all. The grass was not up yet when the first building restoration project began with a big project. The Mount Vernon school was moved from several miles west of Passaic Mo to the grounds. Being totally restored to the original condition the old one room school was only the beginning of many huge projects the young group would undertake in the next few years. At least one new building project was completed every year from log cabins to reconstructing store buildings from area small towns and communities.

The huge 1983 show was held on the new grounds enjoying a record crowd attending the 5th annual event. By the late 80’s crowds were numbering from 10,000 to nearly 15, 000 visitors all looking and watching in awe at hundreds of restored vintage equipment operating as they had so many years before.

Membership grew to well over 200 in the 1980’s and the building continues yet today while the group holds four major events annually.

The reclamation of the grounds and beginnings of the actual “Village” is a whole other story, so I’ll address that later.