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Antique tractor show looms large at 2019 Anchor Festival

Posted on Friday, June 7, 2019 at 5:16 am

Organizers called it one of the best Anchor Fests ever.

It certainly was for fans of antique tractors.

Ronnie Thornhill, left, talking about tractors at the Anchor Fest’s antique tractor show.

This year, 21 tractors rolled through the Anchor Fest parade and were displayed along the north side of Centralia’s City Square Park Saturday.

Massy Harris, John Deere, Allis Chalmers, Olive, Farmall, even a Fordson, Ford, almost all the old names were lined up along the north side of the Centralia City Square Park.

“That was the most antique tractors I have ever seen in an Anchor Festival Parade,” said Ginny Zoellers, director of the Centralia Chamber of Commerce.

“It takes a lot of work,” said Ronnie Thornhill, talking about his pair of special edition Ford 8N tractors. “But If you do it yourself it’s really not that bad. You’re just out that cost of the materials.”

The two tractors he has been bringing to the Anchor Fest antique tractor show for at least a decade are 1952 Ford 8Ns, but with a big difference, more like four big differences to be exact.

One’s normal Ford 8 N had a six-cylinder motor.

Thornhill’s pair have eight-cylinder motors, each installed by Thornhill and his brother Romie converted the two, Ronnie said, “to show people what farmers had to do, could do, back then when they needed more power.

On conversion is a factory kit, he said, that uses a flat-head, eight-cylinder motor. The other uses a V-8 from a Ford Mustang. The factor conversion takes a normal 20 horsepower utility farm tractor and ramps it up to 100 horse power. The Mustang-based conversion rockets it up to “muscle tractor” status at a Godzilla-like 260 horses.

It’s fun,” Thornhill said, “and we wanted to do them to show it could be done.”

He said he and his brother grew up on their family’s farm off NN between Sturgeon and Harrisburg where they raise cattle and farm crops. Restoring old tractors is what they do over the winter.

One fan sitting in a folding chair watching people looking at the tractors, and the world go by was Rodney Vance.

He had his thoughts on why there were more antique tractors than before.

“It’s the weather,” he said with a tired-looking smile. “Not many could get in the field yet this year and last year there wasn’t any rain until Anchor Fest and people looked out their windows and said, ‘I’m not going out in that.’”

Pointing to a Massey Harris equipped with a more than 60-years-old two-row corn-picker, he said. “That one of Schnarre’s over there, that shows people how they were doing it in the 40s and 50s.”

Thornhill agreed. “Yes, that and the older people like to come to these, see the old tractors and say, ‘I drove one of those when I was a kid.’”

He paused and pointed on the rough gray Fordson on a trailer.

“Other people like to see that Fordson. That is a make of tractor that maybe they’ve only heard about. Hardly anybody here knows about them… We do this to keep the memories alive, putting those old tractors back together so their history doesn’t pass away.”