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JB grad brings antique tractors to Franklin County Fair

CHAMBERSBURG – For the first time this year, the Franklin County Fair will feature an antique tractor show, a celebration of the farm equipment that Franklin County has relied on for generations.

The idea for the tractor show came to 19-year-old Garrett Starr while he was thinking of ways to get more people into the fair on Friday night and Saturday morning. He pitched the idea to Robert Eckstein, the chairman of the fair, who thought it was a great idea and put Starr in charge of the project.

“I got really excited about it,” said Starr, who recently graduated from James Buchanan Senior High School and plans to attend the University of Northwestern Ohio with a double major in agricultural equipment technology and diesel technology. “I got to thinking of everybody who has tractors in the area who could bring them in and we judge them and give some prizes out.”

Prizes of $100 will be awarded to the “Best Original Tractor” and the “Best Featured Tractor.” The show will be officiated by two judges who have an overall knowledge of farm equipment - one is Starr himself. The other judge is anonymous, to reduce the risk of competitors trying to influence the verdict before the contest begins.

Best original

To take home the prize of “Best Original Tractor,” the tractor must be in its completely original, unrestored state, which can require some detective work on the part of the judges.

“You can see that it has original paint,” said Starr, using a 1937 John Deere from the personal collection of Curtis and Sue Johnson of Mercersburg as an example. “You can see where the decals used to be. You can just tell that nobody’s ever touched this tractor. Some of them will be an older restoration that got left outside. That one will be harder to tell.”

The featured tractor this year is John Deere, which Starr is very familiar with. He is currently in the process of helping his neighbor restore a 1939 John Deere B. After that, he plans to start the process on his own 1969 John Deere 4020.

The "Best Original Tractor" competition is open to any kind of tractor, not just John Deeres.

What's so great about old tractors?

For Starr, the appeal of the antique tractors is in their simplicity and effectiveness.

“All of these tractors, being made in 1937, have a lot less technology in them,” he explained. “None of them have electric starters on them. They’re all hand start and hand clutch. It’s basic. Spark, fire, and it runs. They’re great. I love ‘em.”

The tractors can be found in barns all around the country in varying states of decay, but often at least a few parts can be salvaged. As with other vintage restorations such as antique cars and instruments, the internet has become a valuable resource for builders to track down obscure parts.

“Normally there will be people who have junkyards full of these things that are just a little too far gone,” said Starr. “Other people might need the radiator or the rims or the pulleys. There are several companies out there that reproduce parts and they’re as good as the original parts. It all depends on if you want a 100 percent original restoration or not.”

When Starr needs a part for his 1969 John Deere 4020, he will turn to craigslist, ebay or one of several Facebook groups that he is currently a member of.

Cool history

Collectors are drawn to John Deere tractors produced in the '30s through the '80s, but Starr doesn’t see as much of a collector’s market developing around the tractors produced in the '90s and 2000s.

“These are just styled a lot nicer than the tractors now,” Starr said of the older models. “It’s stuff you don’t see anymore. And it’s cool. It’s history.”

For information, call Garrett Starr at 717-658-7488. Set-up for the show is from noon-4 p.m. July 15. Release time is at 7 p.m. July 16.