Fall Fest throws spotlight on Waterloo-built John Deere tractors

2010-09-05T04:00:00Z 2010-09-05T17:00:13Z Fall Fest throws spotlight on Waterloo-built John Deere tractorsBy JIM OFFNER, jim.offner@wcfcourier.com Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
September 05, 2010 4:00 am  • 

WATERLOO, Iowa --- It's a kind of Old Home --- or more precisely, Old-Tractor --- Week for Deere & Co., whose inaugural Fall Fest Thursday through Saturday will throw highlight on generations of tractors that were assembled in Waterloo.

Collectors and aficionados of old Deere equipment will park their restored prized pieces on the burgeoning campus of Cedar Valley TechWorks, to be studied, admired and discussed among the thousands of people who are expected to tramp across the grounds over the three days.

The event's site will be familiar ground for the old machines, said Terry Johnston, TechWorks' marketing and facilities manager, who plans to have two of his vintage machines --- a 1935B and a 1972 4020 --- on display.

"For most of these tractors, you're kind of bringing them home, especially the older tractors from the '20s to the '60s, when they were all made in downtown Waterloo," Johnston said. "Of course, you always take pride in your tractor, no matter the condition; they're near and dear to the people who collect them."

Even casual Deere tractor fans will find some fascination in the old green machines, Johnston said.

"For many, it brings back a lot of memories," he said. "As a collector, you get a lot of satisfaction showing your equipment. It gives people a chance for them to look them over and appreciate them."

Fall Fest will focus on Deere products --- particularly the "New Generation" tractors --- and memorabilia produced from the end of the Two Cylinder era in the early 1960s to the present.

A half-century of New Generation tractors is worth noting with this type of celebration, said Thad Nevitt, factory manager of Deere's Waterloo Works.

"These tractors changed the industry in the early 1960s with their advanced designs and technology," Nevitt said. "Industry-leading technology and manufacturing are key attributes that are still core to our business strategy today."

TechWorks, which is taking shape in and around two six-story buildings that were part of Deere's former Westfield Avenue site, provides an appropriate site of the first Fall Fest, Nevitt added.

"TechWorks is an important asset in the community, and we are working closely with them on this event," he said. "In addition, tours will be given of the TechWorks on Saturday. We want the John Deere Fall Fest to promote ag tourism and economic development in our community."

The campus' first working tenant --- the University of Northern Iowa's National Ag-Based Lubricants Center --- has been in place in Tech 1, one of the two former manufacturing plants donated by Deere & Co., since early in the year.

It's a natural fit in giving TechWorks a large boost, plenty of exposure and more than a modicum of legitimacy, said Cary Darrah, general manager of TechWorks.

"I don't think you can think about agriculture and not think about John Deere," Darrah said.

The Fall Fest also will serve as "the premier introduction" of an AgriTech Exhibition Center --- scheduled to open in about a year --- that will showcase technology's past, present and future effects on agriculture, Johnston said.

The Fall Fest also will serve as a helpful launching pad for the nascent TechWorks, Johnston said.

"It's beneficial in many ways," he said. "Firstly, there's overall exposure. Being able to be the co-host or host, if you will, of the John Deere event, certainly gets the name in front of as many people as we've been able to do with our advertising, and being able to co-market has exposed TechWorks to a lot of people who weren't otherwise aware of it."

Organizers expect a large turnout for the event, highlights of which include a tractor parade from TechWorks to the John Deere tractor and cab assembly site; tours of the tractor assembly plant and the TechWorks site, where Deere tractors were first assembled in Waterloo; a meet-and-greet with engineers who designed classic tractors; a tractor and equipment auction outside; and a memorabilia auction inside Tech 1.

"A lot of these folks are Deere enthusiasts, and they're interested to know these are old Deere buildings and that something good will be located there," Johnston said. "From that standpoint alone, it's good exposure."

Fall Fest will be a microcosm of TechWorks' key goal --- combining past, present and future of the region's agriculture heritage, Johnston said.

"We're going to have a lot of people here and a good number of exhibitors and attendees and, hopefully, we'll be exposed to a good number of people and show our campus to collectors, enthusiasts, the public," he said. "This is a great opportunity to tie our campus together with this event and the region."

Copyright 2015 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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