I started showing lawn & garden tractors in the fall of 2009 at the annual Prairie Land Steam Show in Jacksonville, IL. I had actually been collecting for many years before, but never realized how much more fun showing was going to be. Having several friends with the same shared interest helped tremendously. The work involved getting ready, transporting, and setting up was easier with a support team.
One friend had the brilliant idea to form a local club since we were traveling to shows together. No official club was ever actually formed though. Membership could change depending on who was around to discuss on going issues. One idea was to have a show somewhere in the small town of New Berlin, where we all pretty much were living. Considering our organization format, that idea almost died in committee. We had many idea discussions. Some ideas were pretty good, then agian….
My friend Kevin Becker and I were approached at some point to host a show in August of 2013. The show was in companion with a small town festival and a L&G tractor pull. Considering a month before the show date, I ended up moving 100 miles away we did manage a small successful show. There were only about a dozen lawn and garden tractors on display, but since we really had no clue what we were getting into, we felt we did a great job.
With me living 100 miles away, I turned over the hosting duty to my friend for the following year. I would still be involved, since modern conveniences, like the phone, helps to cause no hindrance on friendship.
The following September, my uncle and I made the journey down again, from where we were living, to participate in the steam show. Our small band on hand had a great weekend of fellowship together. Sadly it was the last time our other group founder would be with us. A few weeks later, Kevin was tragically killed in an automobile accident.
Our group of friends weathered through and coped with the loss. Kevin was a very well liked friend and community supporter. His funeral had been attended by 1000. In August of 2014, we honored our lost friend again, by having a tractor show. That year the show grew to 28 tractors, and many attending remembering our cherished lost friend. Kevin’s two brothers Chris and Brett helped me put together a wonderful little show.
Social media is a great tool when it’s used properly. During the planning and organization of the 2014 Memorial Show for Kevin, I created a Facebook group for everyone involved to keep aware of updates. We had tossed around ideas many times, since we started showing, about what we would call our club when we got together for our impromptu “meetings”. The chrome shop mafia was very popular at that time and Kevin had thrown out an idea to call ourselves the “Antique Iron Mafia “. That was the name I tagged on to our group. The Facebook page has been growing from the 20 original members ever since then. The mafia tag was disputed once due to a link to organized crime. I proposed a name change but that idea was soundly defeated. Most argued, related the moniker to family more than a tie to crime. If there is any type of organizing, it would be nothing more than fun chaos
The “mafia” constantly changes. In the group on Facebook, new people become involved and sadly people have stopped following the timeline. Since 2014 the membership has grown to a current number around 140. The Facebook group members aren’t necessarily just in central IL either. We have members in several states now. I’ve often wondered why there is the following, but I’m also very grateful it is there. The group page has grown into a blog of sorts. Information is shared about upcoming shows, parades, and tractor pulls. I post things of interest such as reports on events, write ups about people in our group, and mix it up with a silly joke once in awhile. Participating and sharing is greatly encouraged, but I seem to be the major contributor.
Everyone in our group are special to me, we have notable membership though. There is a magazine editor, magazine writer, two other bloggers, auctioneers and “Machinery Pete” is in the group. I’m humbled by the amazing following.
The “live” version of the mafia changes alot too. In reality the active members seem to be who I’m currently traveling around with or that I see at events. How several shows have been brought together in the past few years is a wonder. I mentioned the disorganization earlier. I’ve given up on being a show host and will no longer ask our membership to stress on the administration of an organized show. The are several area clubs that have those abilities, in fact many of the members belong to the different clubs. I enjoy my independence though and remain unwilling to become a club member. I’m just a promoter of events I’m aware of now and humble reporter to the events in which I participate.
Tractors are a great catalyst to making friends with country folk. I have become closer to many people after some sort of discussion about iron. The circle of tractor enthusiast grow everyday and I’m proud to be involved in that growing circle