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AJ's jamboree draws record crowd despite thunderstorm

A line of garden tractors work on plowing at the edge of the furrow May 18 at AJ's Garden Tractor Jamboree. Photo by Vinde Wells
A line of garden tractors work on plowing at the edge of the furrow May 18 at AJ's Garden Tractor Jamboree. Photo by Vinde Wells

Even a late morning cloudburst didn’t dampen the momentum of the best turn-out ever for a unique local event.

More than 500 people attended the 10th annual AJ’s Garden Tractor Jamboree Saturday and weren’t deterred when Mother Nature turned on both the fireworks and waterworks a little before noon.

“We had 550 people - the most ever,” said host Andy Hinrichs. “Nobody left because of the rain. They just moved inside the buildings and waited it out.”

Hinrichs and his wife Lisa, and their son AJ launched the event in 2010 at their home at 1675 S. Columbian Rd., between Oregon and Polo, as a way to showcase and share their collection of garden tractors.

Other collectors are invited to bring their tractors, and enthusiasts are invited to come and enjoy the day.

Over the years, garden tractor themed events have been added and expanded, an auction is held, and activities for kids are highlighted.

Proceeds from the jamboree go to the Black Hawk Crossings 4-H Club.

Besides Illinois, Hinrichs said people came from Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Many of them learned about the jamboree from his website and Facebook page, he said.

After communicating about it on social media, several decided to attend the event to meet in person.

The tractors — an estimated 340 in all — started arriving last Friday afternoon and evening and by 11 a.m. Saturday, Hinrichs said he was running out of parking space for trailers.

“We’ve never had so many tractors. The rain might have actually helped,” he said with a chuckle. “It might have scared a few people off, and if anymore had come, I don’t know where we would have parked them.”

When the food started running in short supply, volunteers made a trip to a local grocery store for more.

The event remianed largely unaffected by the less than ideal weather that included more rain showers in the afternoon.

Garden tractors with plows and discs lined up for the plowing demonstration, which was over before the thunderstorm came between 11 and 11:30 a.m.

“We delayed the auction for maybe an hour,” Hinrichs said.

After the storm, some of the youngsters took to their tractors to do some trail-riding. 

“The kids and their tractors were mud head to toe,” Hinrichs said. “It was a great day, that’s for sure.”

The auction was successful, he said, with two cherry pies going for $70 each, a spaghetti dinner basket brought $100, and two quilts brought $100 and $170.

“Everyone was very generous,” Hinrichs said.