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The massive John Deere C850 made its first appearance at Big Iron on Sept. 12, 2017. (Jenny Schlecht/Agweek)

Even with the heat, crowds still come to Big Iron

WEST FARGO, N.D. — Even with record heat searing through the Red River Valley Fairgrounds, steady crowds still shuffled through the first day of the Big Iron Farm Show.

The sprawling show, with implements of various colors and equipment of all sizes and types, began on Tuesday, Sept. 12, and will continue through Thursday, Sept. 14. Bryan Schultz, Red River Valley Fair Association general manager, said he expects 70,000 to 80,000 people to come to the show this year.

The high temperature recorded in Fargo on Tuesday was 93, a record for the day. Schultz said he'd heard the heat could help draw crowds — because it's too hot to dig sugar beets — or hurt — because the surprisingly warm temperatures are allowing for more summertime work to get done before freeze up.

Big Iron, Schultz said, sets itself apart from other ag shows by being free for both admission and parking. Field demonstrations, seminars and low-cost health screenings tend to be big draws, he said.

The health screenings are not new to Big Iron, but this year North Dakota State University's Department of Pharmacy Practice is offering Hepatitis C screenings for the first time, in addition to blood pressure, total cholesterol panels and blood sugar tests. Elizabeth Skoy, a pharmacist and associate professor at NDSU, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend anyone born from 1945 to 1965 get tested for Hepatitis C due to issues with blood transfusions and other safety concerns.

The screenings in general are a big draw, Skoy said. Many people come back every year for the screenings in lieu of a regular doctor's visit, she explained. Anyone experiencing problems gets referred to doctors.

Annie Carlson, who brought her Morning Joy Farm food cart to Big Iron for the first time, said the thing that struck her the most was how different the fairgrounds looked with discs and planters and livestock alleys in place of carnival games and amusement park rides.

Among the equipment was the John Deere C850 Air Cart, making its first appearance at Big Iron. The massive cart holds all the fertilizer and seed needed for about a quarter section of land, said Bruce Frank, air seeding product line marketing manager for John Deere.

"It's not small," Frank said.

Katy Stenerson, marketing coordinator for the Red River Valley Fair Association, said some implement dealers have had to let some air out of tires to get machinery into the buildings, and others have found that they just have to stay outside.

That's what the C850 had to do. The cart, made in Valley City, has been used in Canada already, and this is the first year it is being sold in the U.S. Frank said the primary target area for the cart is the Dakotas, Montana and western Canada. The cart, with a base list price of almost $300,000, was drawing attention at Big Iron, even as people had to go outside of the buildings to find it, Frank said.

Though at least one viewer commented he "might be able to buy this little hopper cover" on the machine rather than the whole thing, Frank believes the productivity, accuracy and technology integration allowed in the C850 will make it valuable to farmers. Though the size makes it challenging to show at farm shows or to get down the road, he said the features it offers will help save money in the long run.

Near the C850, Concept Industries was displaying its new hopper bins, the work of Fred Mitzel, Henry Wiebe and Jake Wiebe. The bins feature heavier metal throughout, heavier standard legs and can include wider skid bases, and they have larger-than-standard manway holes, poke holes and top openings.

Mitzel, who has farmed for 41 years and dealt bins in his business, Fred's Farm Supply for 38 years, and Henry Wiebe, who has dealt in bins more than seven years, believe Concept Industries' bins will be an improvement, with less damage to sidewalls from wind and a higher resale value.

Mitzel joked that people have told him they'd have been better off buying hopper bins and reselling them than investing into a 401(k), and he believes their new product will be a solid investment.

Concept Industries is giving away a 3,000-bushel bin, valued at $12,500. They had plenty of slips of paper in their entry boxes on Tuesday afternoon, and they were impressed with the crowds they'd seen so far in their first time exhibiting at Big Iron.

"We were lucky to get in," Mitzel said.

Schultz said Big Iron sold out again this year, as it does every year. The show has a waitlist of about 150 potential vendors who want to get in.

For more information on Big Iron vendors and schedules, visit or download the Big Iron mobile app.