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As I recall: Politics in 'Plowville'

"The 1964 National Plowing Contest will be held on the Elmer F. Fraase farm near Buffalo, N.D., Homer Ludwick, Fargo, general chairman has announced. The event will be in September. The farm is located 32 miles west of Fargo alongside Interstate 94.

Barry Goldwater

"The 1964 National Plowing Contest will be held on the Elmer F. Fraase farm near Buffalo, N.D., Homer Ludwick, Fargo, general chairman has announced. The event will be in September. The farm is located 32 miles west of Fargo alongside Interstate 94. ... The farm consists of 1,500 acres of cropland, of which two adjacent sections will be utilized for the plowing contest and allied activities."

The Forum,

March 29, 1963

To set the scene from 40 years ago, news stories in 1964 included the following:

E U. S. troops entered Vietnam when President Lyndon Johnson sent planes to bomb PT boat bases in North Vietnam after the boats attacked American destroyers in Tonkin Gulf;

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E After an 83-day filibuster, the Civil Rights Bill banning discrimination in public facilities passed Congress;

E Cassius Clay, 22, won the world heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston;

E The Beatles arrived from Liverpool to tour the United States;

E The St. Louis Cardinals beat the New York Yankees in the World Series;

And the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, Minnesota Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey, and Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater spoke to a crowd estimated at 100,000 people at the National Plowing Contest held at the Elmer F. Fraase farm near Buffalo, N.D., on Sept. 18, 1964. The site was called Plowville.

The farm was acquired by Fraase's grandfather, Henry Fraase, in 1880. Elmer Fraase's father, Walter Fraase, was born on the farm in 1898 as was Elmer, whose parents still lived on the farm in 1964.

It was quite a day. I attended with my husband Hal, my grandmother Petra Krantz, her friend Nora Nelson Ottis, known as Bebe, and Bebe's grandson, Rolf Pepple.

Sponsored by the North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts, the Fargo Chamber of Commerce and the North Dakota Broadcasting Co. Inc., it was the year of North Dakota's Diamond Jubilee.

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The Fraases' farm was chosen for the contest in March 1963. Preparations for the event included a new exit and access built on Interstate 94 which ran along the south edge of the Fraase farm, a landing strip, microwave tower and markers for the acres of displays and exhibits.

For more than 20 years after the plowing contest, I could see the remains of the access road that was built near the farm while driving west on Interstate 94.

We went in early because that is when Humphrey was going to speak. The scene was one of organized chaos with people and cars and tents and farm machinery everywhere. We didn't see the plowing contest, but Hal treated Rolf to his first airplane ride and we got to hear Humphrey.

In his column "Sidewalk Farming," Forum staff writer Alf T. Olsen asked "What's Plowville Like? It's Hard to Describe." He said it was the combination of a fair, circus, football game, political arena and a small town on Saturday night. Olsen suggested that if you took all of these ingredients and mixed them up, you would have what's going on near Buffalo.

Tents with banners flapping in the wind occupied the landscape. The sounds of blaring music, including a rock 'n' roll combo, the voices of people pitching their wares at the commercial exhibits, and the noise of planes arriving and taking off and shuttle buses filled the air.

Four hundred light aircraft from six states arrived for a fly-in event. The control tower, staffed by the Federal Aviation Agency, cleared 1,200 landings and take-offs. It was estimated that the planes arriving during the three-day event brought in 2,000 passengers.

Commercial flight operators with helicopters and light planes flew about 1,000 passengers who purchased sightseeing rides. A radio control tower made it possible to handle air traffic volume on one runway. No accidents marred the event.

Clippings tell the story of preparations within the Fraases' farm home, too.

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Elmer's wife, Ramona Zaeske, cared for their four children: Anne, 10; Ron, 8; Lee, 5; and Sue, 2. She also entertained visitors.

A guest book she started in March showed visitors from 10 states before the event began. She said at the time that the only changes she made in the house were new curtains.

During the Plowville festivities, friends from Ramona's homemaker club and family members helped in the kitchen, poured coffee and served visitors, including Humphrey and Goldwater.

Ramona's parents, the August Zaeskes of Chaffee, and Elmer's parents were there to help.

Unfortunately, it rained on Plowville 1964, but that didn't dampen the celebration.

According to Forum files, the cost of Plowville to Cass County was $15,188 - $11,246 for gravel for roads and $3,942 for "erecting fences and so forth."

In September 1999, the National Plowing Contest was featured at the 46th Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag, Minn. It rained on that show, too.

This year's National Plowing Contest was held Aug. 21-22 at Twin Brooks, S.D., near Milbank. I don't know if it rained.

Forum files; www.filmsite.org/1964.html; http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/1964/; www.webfamilytree.com/1964.htm; www.milbanksd.com/twin_brooks_threshing_show.htm

Readers can reach Forum historical columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com .

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