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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Plowing with draft horses, Deer Creek Sodbusters Show, August 1995
Plowing with draft horses at the 13th annual Deer Creek Sodbusters Show, August 13, 1995. Photo: Mike Evans

Deer Creek Sodbusters Antique Machinery Show

Held annually the second Sunday in August outside Sterling, Nebraska, the show exhibits a wide range of farming methods and technology dating from before 1900 to the late 1950's. The show is intended to promote and preserve the agricultural heritage of southeastern Nebraska, where the values and traditions of the family farm have shaped the regional culture.

It began in 1983 as the "Wolff Bros. Plowing Bee," showing off Bob and John Wolff's collection of John Deere Diesel wheatland tractors. When the show became too much for the Wolff Bros. to handle on their own, in January 1987, a new non-profit corporation was chartered in the state of Nebraska for sponsoring the show, named "Deer Creek" for the creek which ran through the Wolff farm, and "Sodbusters" for the historic name of the first farmers to settle on the great plains and make their living working the land. In addition to antique tractors, small stationery gasoline engines, antique automobiles, and trucks were first shown in 1987, as well as demonstrations of threshing, corn shelling, and farming with draft horses. Steam engines were added in 1988, as well as attractions to appeal to women and children: a craft show, flea market, and children's playground. In subsequent years children's activities have expanded to include a children's barnyard and pony ride.

Because the show takes place on a working farm, the field demonstrations such as plowing, corn binding, small grain binding, and field work with draft horses is authentic. The Sodbusters operate their own lunch stand during the show, and "serve the best tasting food of any outdoor summer event in the area": charcoal-grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and polish dogs.

In 1989, the Deer Creek Sodbusters leased an additional five acres of land for the purpose of an expanded show grounds where buildings and other items of historical value could be placed, preserved, and exhibited annually as part of the show. Buildings on the site now comprise an elevator scale house, a windmill and utility barn, chapel, jail, saw mill, and "Rusty Iron Museum" which contains old machinery no longer operable or restorable. Museum pieces acquired and on display are a horse-powered stationery baler, a harvester/thresher, and a fire truck. The Sodbusters also sponsor or support other events during the year: Horse and Buggy Days, the Sterling Town Picnic, engage in educational, civic and charitable works in the Sterling area, and promote tourism: Each year the Deer Creek Sodbusters show draws an estimated crowd of 2,000 or more.

Project documentation includes a narrative of 27 pages; 26 8 x 10 color photographs; show bills for several of the annual shows; newspaper and magazine coverage; copies of several historic documents relating to antique equipment; scholarship application forms, recipient list, and thank-you notes from the scholarship recipients; letters of thanks for Sodbuster-supported charitable causes; and a special commemorative postal cancellation.

Originally submitted by: Doug Bereuter, Representative (1st District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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