Gail Rodda isn’t slowing down much when it comes to fixing up antique cars and tractors.
But his tractor did.
Rodda, a well-known Abilene auto mechanic, said his profession helped tune his 1948 John Deere B tractor to win the Slow Tractor Race at the 35th Annual Chisholm Trail Day Festival Saturday.
“You should have seen it creeping,” said his wife Dee. “The other tractors were clear down at the end and he was only halfway through.”
Obviously, the tractor that crosses the finish line last wins the slow race.
“It runs pretty slow,” Rodda said, adding that he has been a mechanic for 60 years. “That makes a difference.”
Along with entertainment, crafts, demonstrations, an antique car show, rides on the carousel powered by a steam engine and food booths, tractors were a recurring theme at the festival.
There was an antique tractor show highlighted by the Tractor Parade, an antique tractor-pulling contest as well as a kid Pedal Power Tractor Pull.
There were big tractors and some not so big, like Dee Rodda’s 1950 John Deere M, which was the featured tractor of the Antique Farm Show.
Larry Sorenson, the emcee for the parade, said each year a tractor is featured. This year it was the John Deere and next year a Case tractor will be selected.
Rodda bought the featured tractor from Junior Van Degisen from Smith Center.
“I totally restored it and repainted it,” Rodda said.
Rodda has about a dozen tractors at his farm where he was born just east of Solomon. Of those, five have been restored. Rodda also restores antique cars.
“There are as many people interested in tractors as there are cars, actually,” he said. “I’ve been on a farm all my life. I was raised on a farm.”
Sorenson also owns five antique tractors.
“They are tractors that I have been around through the years,” he said.
Sorenson purchased a John Deere B from Herb Strunk and he owns one his uncle used.
“Tractors are what people grew up with,” he said. “Some like to do a series of them. Each person is a little different.”
Rodda said the Internet has helped with parts and aftermarket suppliers.
“I’m pretty fortunate to know guys like Junior Van Degisen and his brother who are antique dealers,” he said.
Rodda said there is a lot of interest in John Deere tractors. He said the International Farmall is probably the next most popular antique tractor.
“The 2-cylinder is what most people are interested in,” he added. “They sound nice.”
During the Tractor Parade, a long-time tradition at the Chisholm Festival, Sorenson gave a little talk on each tractor displayed.
“People like to be recognized for what they have,” he said of the parade.