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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


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Tractor Show is all about Middle America

By Barry Schrader.................................July 20, 2010

“Thank God I’m a Country Girl” was neatly lettered on the side of a blazing pink 1945 Case tractor in the 10th annual Waterman Tractor Show on Saturday.

It was one of the many antique and lovingly restored tractors in the procession around Lions Park, and was driven by a young woman named Kelly Zachary of Ottawa. Her brother drove another restored Case behind her in the parade. Their family came away with one of the top prizes of the day – the Speaker’s Choice Award – for their collection of old Case tractors on display.
Declared an “outstanding success” by Lions committeeman Leonard Johnson, the show was crowded with farm machinery on display as well as vendors and throngs of people. Much of the credit should go to orchard owner and beekeeper Steve Bock who has chaired the annual event since its inception.
The highlight of my day was getting to interview the event's celebrity announcer, Max Armstrong, who with Orion Samuelson has done the "Morning Show" on WGN radio for some 30 years. Now that Max has become Director of Broadcasting for Farm Progress,

Kelly Zachary dazzled the parade crowd with her blazing pink Case tractor.

Max Armstrong, at right, was the celebrity tractor parade announcer. At left is Waterman Lions president Harold Giddings.

he provides more than 110 broadcast outlets nationwide with his agriculture-related programming through satellite, web-based and commercial TV and radio stations. But he still does the 5 a.m. show with Orion Samuelson every Saturday.
Max wouldn’t speculate on what Orion’s retirement plans might be when he reaches his 50th year milestone in September at WGN but says he hopes they at least get to continue their show together for years to come. Speaking fondly of his longtime radio partner, Max said, “His role at WGN has been legendary. There is no one in a major (media) market in America on a big city radio station who has done as much to educate the non-farmer about this business of farming.” But as Waterman Lions announcer Tony North said, Max has also "carried the torch for American agriculture on the airwaves for three decades."
Asked what he saw in the future for America’s farms Max said: “I am confident that the family farmer will still play a major role. … It’s not going to look like it does today or back 50 years ago; we are becoming more productive all the time. … The farm families are certainly getting more progressive and aggressive and up-to-date with all the new technologies that are taking place.
"I like what I see in the next generation. We are finding bright young minds who are staying involved in family agriculture. But what we have to remember as a nation is to let our agricultural industry operate without being entangled in too much regulation. I worry about that.” Then he added, “It seems our lawmakers don’t get it. … We need to appreciate and prize our lawmakers who represent our rural areas, and (motioning toward state Rep. Robert Pritchard, who was standing nearby) those who understand the needs of agriculture and support for education as Bob does.”
Another question I had, what about the loss of good farm land? Max replied, “I’ve been bothered by this but understand why it is happening. I fly with Orion over the Chicago area and see all those vacant lots and wonder why they don’t build on those. It bothers me a lot when we pave over good productive farmland because I know it is never to be in production again.” I also fear the loss of some of the richest crop-growing soil in the country and don’t know an easy answer how to save it for future generations to be farmed.
But wandering among the tractor show enthusiasts, the crafts and arts booths, and farm equipment on display, it made me feel good to be in middle America with its wholesomeness, the hard-working families taking the day off, and so many folks exuding patriotism. On the way home I stopped at the nearest sweet corn stand and bought some for our table. What a great life!

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115