By Teresa Fleming
Last Thursday, August 29, members of the Grinnell community gathered in Central Park for AG Appreciation Day in celebration of agricultural traditions and Iowan hospitality. College students and local residents comingled at the farming festivities and events, which featured a petting zoo, live music, tractor pulls and pony rides.
The event was organized by members of the local Grinnell Lions service club and drew hundreds in attendees as a continuation of the decades-long tradition begun by Jim Urfer.
Urfer was a prominent and longtime member of the Grinnell Lions and Grinnell College alumnus who sadly passed away this year at 77. His involvement in the local agricultural community and specifically AG Appreciation Day left a poignant legacy.
At this year’s AG Appreciation Day, the Lions honored his memory by presenting the new Jim Urfer Spirit of Farming Award to the four generations of Urfer’s family present at the event, including his wife, daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchild.
“[The award] is a means to highlight how important farm families are to the greater Grinnell community,” said Lions Club member Allan Maly. “It takes energy and commitment to be successful farmers. Those were the qualities Jim brought to the AG Days with which he was involved.”
Among the day’s highlights were the parade and display of antique tractors, including Peggy Kolpin’s 1929 McCormick Deering 10-20, nicknamed “Ella” after her grandmother. For Kolpin, a 33-year resident of Grinnell, the tractor purchased by her grandfather is a physical reminder of the ties in her family history to agriculture.
With the help of local resident Darryl Hull, Kolpin was careful about how much restoration work she wanted for Ella.
“It’s like antique furniture. If you do too much, you take away from it,” said Kolpin.
Although she is unsure about what she will end up doing with the tractor, she has no regrets about her decision to devote her energies to it.
“I just couldn’t see it sitting around and not getting restored,” Kolpin said.
But even as local Grinnellians were celebrating their deep-rooted ties to the community, first-years at the College were just beginning to develop connections to their new home. Amidst the barrage of NSO events, many attended the event in hopes of forming new links to the Grinnell community.
For Berenice Tompkins ’17, a native of New York, the local heritage displayed by AG Appreciation Day offered a unique insight into the Grinnell community.
“It was really nice to see everyone kind of displaying the origins of what they do and the equipment they use for what they do with so much pride,” Tompkins said.
But Tompkins was also excited to find other students joining her in exploring the Grinnell community off campus.
“It made me really happy to see so many students, and especially so many first-years like me, who were just trying to find roots in this school, going to [AG Appreciation Day],” she said. “Because obviously that shows that sense of place is important here and that people value getting to know a greater community outside the school.”
Grinnell’s AG Appreciation Day certainly gave Grinnellians old and new a good look at their roots.