Albert Lea will host an international event in June

Published 1:52 pm Saturday, May 14, 2011

Many residents of the Albert Lea area already know that some sort of big gathering of farm equipment and fans are coming to the Freeborn County Fairgrounds this summer.

They might even know that it’s called the Red Power Roundup and it will feature product made by International Harvester.

But just how big will it be?

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Anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 people are expected to come, said Event Director Bruce Jensen with the Minnesota chapter of the International Harvester Collectors Club.

For comparison, Albert Lea has a population of 18,000.

Jensen said he is hoping for 2,000 tractors, with 500 from Minnesota alone. And it remains to be seen how many other International Harvester Co. products will be there. After all, the former Chicago-based legend made many other things: cotton pickers, harvesters, crawlers, plows, cultivators, grain binders, corn binders, manure spreaders, lawn mowers, industrial machines and trucks, among other things. It even made appliances, from refrigerators to air conditioners.

Don’t believe it’s going to be as big as it sounds? Jensen said drive to Moorhead and see the 25 semi loads of equipment being collected over the next month. There are another 30 semi loads in Iowa.

“Northern Iowa and Minnesota are really excited about this,” Jensen said.

Tractors will be coming from California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Florida, New York and from across the Upper Midwest, Jensen said.

The Red Power Roundup takes place June 23, 24 and 25, but locals will start to see semitrailers loaded with tractors and other equipment arrive in Albert Lea as early as June 15.

The products will be showcased in rows at the fairgrounds. Some people will be staying in motorhomes and getting around in golf carts. Many will stay in one of the area’s 650 hotel rooms. The visitors will come from all over North America. One even is coming from New Zealand.

This is the 22nd Red Power Roundup, and the New Zealander has never missed a Roundup.

As an example of just what a big deal it is for the Freeborn County Fairgrounds, Jensen said sometimes the Roundup is held on state fairgrounds.

The International Harvester Collectors Club has 41 chapters in the United States, two in Canada and one in Sweden. There is some work being done, Jensen said, to get a chapter for Australia and New Zealand.

Jensen is retired but once was an International Harvester tractor mechanic before he became a salesman at tractor dealers in Owatonna. Eventually, he worked for Jensales in Manchester, which makes parts catalogs and other manuals.

He is clearly excited about bringing the Red Power Roundup to Albert Lea. He represented the Minnesota chapter at the Red Power Roundup in Missouri in 2008, where he beat out Iowa to get the show.

Jensen said one of the two main features of the show will be what’s called a “white demonstrator” tractor from the 1950s. The other will be “gold demonstrator” tractors from the 1970s. These were tractors that International Harvester used to promote their product.

Red is the color International was known for, but its tractors came in gray, white or gold, too. For instance, on the cover of Red Power Magazine for March-April 2011 is a gold 1944 Model I-4 owned by John Esche of Evansville, Ind. The magazine is edited in Ida Grove, Iowa.

The Red Power Roundup is not going to be all about farm machinery, though. The Red Power Roundup will offer entertainment, such as a stagecoach robbery with vintage guns shooting blanks. Calico Hutch of Hayward will host a quilting bee and give quilting demonstrations. The Hat Lady of Montgomery will model hats from as old as the 1850s, along with hat pins and dresses. There will be tours to the Mall of America, Hills Gardens, Albert Lea Seed House, Spam Museum and other places.

Read more on Monday about how International Harvester’s roots go all the way back to Cyrus McCormick, the demise of the company and its modern descendants.

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About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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