COTTONWOOD - Jim Mager, 85, came to admire farming machinery after a childhood "walking behind three horses to plow a field."
Mager is president of the Arizona Flywheelers, which is holding its 32nd Annual Engine and Tractor Show Friday, March 18 and Saturday, March 19 at the Verde Valley Fairgrounds in Cottonwood.
What is a "flywheeler?"
"It all started with flywheel engines. They can run on most anything and were used to power things. They grind wheat, pump water, pump oil - they still use them in the oil fields," said Mager.
"If they (visitors) come and see engines all running and hooked up to different things, it's quite interesting," he said. Flywheel engines evolved into mobile tractors, and eventually horses were relieved of their farming chores.
Being a Midwesterner who worked on his grandparent's dairy farm, Mager still admires anything John Deere.
"They are very durable and you can still get parts. I own three of them," he said, including a 1946 model parked in his carport.
Asked if he would sell any of them, Mager quickly answered, "No."
In fact, John Deere tractors have become collectible "ever since the '80s," said Mager.
A successful three decades
Even while celebrating a time that some have forgotten and more have never experienced, the Arizona Flywheelers is one of the more successful clubs of this type, according to Mager.
"Sometimes we have 40 people at our meetings. Most clubs have six people and think that is pretty good. We've been getting some younger people in our clubs, too," Mager said.
This may be due to a variety of factors, including a renewed interest in sustainable small farms, as well as the relatively reasonable cost of acquiring antique tractors. For example, the club's classified ads list a variety of antique tractors starting at $1,000.
Family fun for non-farmers
Farm buffs are traditionally drawn to the book sale, swap meet and antique displays. Many enjoy riding the 45-foot tractor-pulled trailer operated by Mager.
For those unfamiliar with farming but looking for a good time, the show offers a variety of family activities.
"We have model trains, vendors selling different things, a garden tractor pull and a silent auction," said Mager.
Mager anticipates about 3,000 visitors to this weekend's event.
"We have a lot of snowbirds leaving the Valley and they stop at the show on the way back home," he said.
For more information, visit www.arizonaflywheelers.com. What: Arizona Flywheelers Annual Engine and Tractor Show.
When: March 18 and 19, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Verde Valley Fairgrounds, 800 E Cherry St., Cottonwood
How Much: $5 donation per person
More Info: Contact Gary Covert 928-639-1453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.