Men, machines hark back to fair’s roots

Herb Bohrer unloads a 1940s Farmall B and 1930s John Deere manure spreader at the Eastern Idaho State Fair on Tuesday morning. Bohrer and his friend, Wally Driscoll, bring in a collection of vintage equipment for display at the fair. The friends from the Springfield/Sterling area have been displaying the equipment for six years.

Two Bingham County men believe the Eastern Idaho State Fair is drifting away from its agricultural roots.

So, they’re trying to do something about it.

Herb Bohrer of Springfield and Wally Driscoll of nearby Sterling have been bringing antique and restored farm implements to the fair for the past six years to show fair-goers the tools once used to help raise the food they eat.

“You get past the livestock, and there really isn’t much agricultural emphasis anymore,” Bohrer said. “We thought people might like to see some of this old equipment.”

Driscoll, whose family has farmed in the county since 1874, agreed.

“When I was a kid, they had all this agricultural equipment at the fair and I enjoyed that, but they don’t anymore” he said. “Every year there’s less farmers. They seem to be going more toward entertaining people.”

Bohrer and Driscoll decided to do a bit of entertaining with their display, as well as educating multiple generations on farm technology.

The pair have a variety of tractors, combines and other equipment, dating from the 1930s through the 1950s. Last year, they and a couple friends showed about 15 pieces.

Bohrer’s pride and joy is a horse-drawn Case manure spreader from the 1930s that he pulls with his 1948 Farmall B tractor. At last year’s fair, he displayed the spreader with a sign that read, “Politician’s Podium.”

“They speak from the front and we receive from the rear,” Bohrer said. “It’s available for political speeches, but no one’s ever taken me up on it.”

The men said they’ve received nothing but favorable responses from those who come to see their farm equipment. Often, people will sit on a machine for photographs or children will climb aboard to explore.

But one of the major enjoyments the men get is the way their display spans the generations.

“We get kids who don’t have any idea what it is other than it’s got a steering wheel,” Bohrer said. “Then, we get the next generation who says, ‘My dad used to use one of these.’ Then we get Grandpa who remembers using one of these.”

Located between the horse barns on the northwest corner of the fairgrounds, Bohrer and Driscoll sometimes feel their display has been shuffled to an out-of-the-way site.

“The people who come back there don’t even realize we’re there,” Bohrer said. “They didn’t come to look at a lot of old scrap iron.”

Invariably, the visitors like what they see.

“We’ve had a lot of compliments from people who want to keep doing it,” Driscoll said.

But Bohrer and Driscoll aren’t bitter about the emphasis on entertainment and away from agricultural displays. They understand the fair needs to make a profit for it to remain viable.

Fair Manager Brandon Bird agreed it’s unfortunate that farm implement dealers don’t do as much at the fair as they did years ago, but said it’s just part of a changing industry.

“It’s definitely changed because there are other places for them to reach their customers,” he said. “There’s just a different way of marketing occurring in the industry.”

The fair’s focus on entertainment does, in fact, connect with its roots and has changed little over time, Bird said.

“The majority of the entertainment is still the same style and type of entertainment that was going on 50 years ago,” he said. “There’s no better country fair in the western United States than the Eastern Idaho State Fair. We’re far ahead of the curve as far as the commercialization of our fair goes.”

And when it comes to the out-of-the-way location for their display, Bohrer and Driscoll figure it’s OK.

“We’re a refuge for nursing mothers, and old people who want to sit down and get a little shade, and anyone who wants to come in and visit,” Bohrer said.