1964 ‘Plowville’ remembered: Display in Buffalo commemorates 50th anniversary of major ND event
BUFFALO, N.D. - Fifty years ago, Ramona Fraase broke bread with presidential candidates in her home.
She and her husband, Elmer Fraase, hosted more than 100,000 visitors to their rural Buffalo farm, which was the location for the 1964 National Plowing Contest, or Plowville, as the event was called. It was a big deal for the Fraases and the state.
Sen. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee, and Republican presidential candidate Sen. Barry Goldwater attended and spoke at the event.
Now the Fraases’ photos, brochures and other memorabilia of the event are on display at the historic 1916 Buffalo High School throughout the month to celebrate the contest’s 50th anniversary.
Photos show rows upon rows of tents and cars. Pictures of crowds of people make the 1,500-acre farm look like a large city.
“At the time, tent city was the largest city in North Dakota,” said Romana Fraase, who husband died eight years ago. “My husband and I both used to say, ‘Did we really live through that?’ ”
Plowville was held at the Fraase farm because of the soil, the proximity to Fargo and because they were “dumb enough to take it on,” she said.
“We were just always doing something,” she said, adding that her husband was a great supporter of North Dakota.
“It was exciting. We were 35, and at that age anything is a challenge,” said the now 85-year-old. “I do know that we both lost weight.”
Preparation for the event, which was sponsored by the North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts, the Fargo Chamber of Commerce and the North Dakota Broadcasting Co. Inc., took two years.
A radio tower was built, as was a landing strip for the 400 light aircraft that arrived for a fly-in event, according to Forum archives. A new exit was also constructed from Interstate 94 to the Fraase farm.
Elmer had to plant 300 acres of alfalfa for a tent city and for the crowds to walk on. He also planted various types of corn and rows of different trees that could be grown in the state, Fraase said.
“For years we would cut our Christmas trees out of the plowing contest trees,” she said.
Fraase and her husband did a lot of promotional work prior to the event, and Fraase made a lot of coffee and treats, she said.
“During the summer, it started in May or June of that year, people would stop by and I gave everybody coffee and cookies,” she said.
During the three-day event, she made appearances at ladies programs to answer questions. She and her homemakers club and family members also served coffee and food to visiting dignitaries.
One photo captured Fraase as she dished up ice cream. Another shows her and Humphrey’s wife, Muriel, in the Fraases’ living room.
“We were so busy, I don’t think we had time to be nervous,” she said. “I think we were awe-struck after it was over.”
The Fraases had four young children, ages 2 to 10, who were the subjects of numerous photographs, including one where they were playing with cats. The children wore host ribbons just like their parents.
In addition to the contest and presidential candidate addresses, Plowville featured events like square dances, tractor pulls, threshing demonstrations, sky-diving exhibits and concerts.
Liane Stout of Buffalo was in high school at the time and handed out programs at the front gate during the National Plowing Contest.
Growing up in a town of 200, she said to see 100,000 in one place was mind-boggling.
“It was bigger than any carnival I’d ever been to,” she said. “You could hardly grasp the size.”
Jerry Melvin, who farms south of Buffalo, was in his 20s at the time and attended all three days of Plowville.
“It was huge,” he said. “It was one of the first opportunities that the state had to have national presidential candidates come to the state. It showcased North Dakota agriculture, especially in the eastern part of the state.”
If you go
What: 50th anniversary of National Plowing Contest display
When: Historic 1916 Buffalo (N.D.) High School, 303 Pearl St.
Where: 3 to 6 p.m. Thursdays in September
Contact: (701) 412-4485