The Missouri State Fairgrounds and Sedalia are soon to be invaded by a sea of red, (and grey) as the 26th National Red Power Roundup will converge on Sedalia Wednesday through Saturday.
Event organizers are expecting between 20,000 to 25,000 visitors for the annual event, which is being hosted for the first time in Sedalia. More than 1,000 International Harvester Tractors will be on display during the four-day show.
Most people think International Harvesters were always red, but that is not the case. This year the theme of the event is “Back to Our Roots, the Gray Power Roundup.”
“Originally, the tractors were gray,” Paul Cummings, an exhibitor at the event said. “On Nov. 1, 1936, the company decided that gray wasn’t the safest color to be seen when the tractors were being driven on the road. That’s when they decided to paint them red.”
“We really feel like this event is a way to protect and preserve the history and development of agriculture,” said Robert “Bob” Buxton, president of the National Board for the International Harvester Collector’s Club.
The event will feature several live demonstrations and events designed for all ages. There will be daily parades and demonstrations of antique thrashing, husking, and bailing equipment.
The roundup will also feature pre-1939 tractors, red Cub Cadet lawnmowers and what Buxton described as the largest collection of “high wheeler” International Harvester trucks assembled.
“We really think we do have something for everyone,” Buxton said. “There are a lot of vintage items on display and for sale but we also have a lot of children’s activities and activities designed for women too.”
The national chapter has more than 7,000 members and internationally there are more than 1,000 members.
“We have a lot of chapters in Canada,” Buxton said. “We also have chapters in as far away as Sweden and New Zealand. We expect to see some of those members in Sedalia this week as well.
“Most of our members have conservative, rural backgrounds,” Buxton added. “Their roots go deep in farming, and they are just genuine hard working people.”
According to Buxton, Sedalia and the State Fairgrounds were chosen for two main reasons.
“We have a bidding process in the organization, where we chose the location of the event at least three years out,” Buxton explained. “Missouri was chosen and then we had to decide where to hold the event.”
The national event has been hosted in Missouri before, in Columbia in 2008 and Boonville in 1993. Organizers decided those venues were too small to accommodate the growth of the event in recent years.
“The State Fairgrounds is one of the only areas large enough to host our event,” Buxton added. “They offer great facilities here and the other accommodations and people in the area make it a great place.”
Event organizers have worked hard to connect the ties the International Harvester Corporation has to Sedalia.
“One of our members in Wisconsin went through their archives and found a lot of pictures of our tractors at the Missouri State Fair from 1933 through 1936,” Buxton said. “We are going to feature the pictures and period equipment in the big tent that is a replica of one that was here in the 1930s.”
Another local tie is between the President of the Missouri Chapter, Andrew Dawson, and nationally known singer and Pettis County resident, Leroy Van Dyke.
“A few years ago, a friend of mine bought a tractor from the estate of Leroy Van Dyke’s father that was held in the area.” Dawson said. “It (a WK-40 McCormick Deering) was in rough shape, and so he offered to sell it to me.
“I bought and restored it,” Dawson said. “A few years back, I was at a show with the tractor and Mr. Van Dyke found out about it. He came and took some pictures with the tractor. In fact he called the other day and said he hated that he couldn’t be here over the weekend but he is performing out of state.”
It is friendships like those that develop at the Power Roundups that Buxton feels make the events and organization so meaningful.
“I joined the club in 1992,” Buxton said. “Over the years I’ve met some great people and made some great friends. Our mission is to protect and preserve the history of the International Harvester Corporation, but the friendship and the stories make that possible.”
The 26th National Event begins at 8 a.m. Wednesday on the Missouri State Fairgrounds. Opening ceremonies are scheduled for noon in front of the MEC Building. Tickets are $10 a day, a four-day pass is $25. Children 12 and younger are free with a paid adult. Tickets may be purchased at the gate.