Vintage tractor collector from Wisconsin makes seventh trip to Alaska State Fair

The owner of 19 Sears tractors hauls one up every other year
The owner of 19 Sears tractors hauls one up every other year
Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 7:00 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - Thursday kicked off the second week of the Alaska State Fair, and the crowds started showing up right as the gates opened at 11 a.m for Alaska Agriculture Day.

While the Division of Agriculture hosted the Tundra Chef Cook-off Challenge, vintage tractor collector John Baum greeted fair-goers as they walked through the gates.

This is the seventh time Baum has come to Alaska to show off his vintage collection with the other members of the Antique Power Club of Alaska. In tow with him, this year is his 1939 Sears Roebuck — but that’s not his only tractor.

“I’m up to 19 of them. They only built 500 of them, and there’s only about 100 of them left,” Baum said. “I’m kind of a Ford person.”

Baum learned how to drive tractors while growing up on a dairy farm with his dad, but once his farming days were over, his love for tractors and equipment remained steady. His extensive collection started with a 1938 Sears Roebuck economy tractor and grew from there.

He drove up to Alaska over 15 years ago to take part in the power club’s plow day during the solstice, but after running into June snow in Canada, he opted to come up during the month of August going forward.

“I got hooked on the fair time,” Baum said.

Baum is one of the first faces people see as they walk through the gates of the yellow trail. His tractor sits perfectly behind a table he sets up that displays past news articles and old equipment ads from the late 1930s. He drives his vintage tractors up to Alaska in trailers over 3,000 miles from Wisconsin every other year, spending the off years at a show in Rantoul, Illinois. This year his truck broke down in Tok, but the determined tractor enthusiast paid to have the trailer — and the Ford Model A engine tractor — towed the rest of the way.

Thankfully, the vintage tractor runs just fine and can be seen every day at 3 p.m. when Baum runs it in the iconic antique tractor pull event on the yellow trail lawn.

“It’s not like competition. It’s for education, but it usually pretty well takes first place,” Baum bragged. “It like pulls just about the full length.”

Baum has no intention of buying more vintage tractors to add to his fleet but still gets sale offers when people hear about his collection.

“I’m holding at 19,” Baum laughed. “I could have bought another couple of them, but four loads is enough. You got to put a limit sometime.”