- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—DECATUR — The transformation of Progress City USA to be ready for the Farm Progress Show is fast taking shape.

With a little more than a month to go before the event, tents have started to go up, and work to complete the first phase of a $1 million expansion of the site is under way.

Rick Wild, the show’s operations manager, is confident everything will be in place for the show, which is Sept. 1 to 3.

“We have a lot to do in a short time,” Wild said. “I’m comfortable feeling it will be done. There is a good chance it will go to the last minute.”

Wild said the roads in the expansion area on the south end of the exhibit field won’t be paved in time for this year’s show. Instead, work started last week on pouring lime to establish a hard base for the roads that is intended to still drain well, he said.

Wild said the roads will be paved during a second phase of the expansion before the show in 2017. Penton, the Farm Progress Show’s parent company, is paying for the expansion.

For now, Wild said the focus is on accommodating all the exhibitors interested in being at this year’s Farm Progress Show.

“It’s amazing how many folks want to be part of the show,” Wild said.

The Illinois Soybean Association is among the exhibitors planning on increasing its footprint at the show, said Jayne Godfrey, the group’s communications coordinator.

It will have a space inside the original exhibit field like it has in the past, plus an additional lot in the expanded area, Godfrey said.

The additional space allows it to provide information and examples of double crop rotations, she said. The double crop plot is a partnership between the Soybean Association, Growmark, Syngenta and Limagrain.

“It’s nice that we’ll have extra space to provide even more of a hands-on experience,” Godfrey said. “With the weather this year, producers are looking for more answers and advice. They’re coming to the show because they’re looking for what to try next.”

As the site continues to be built up, Godfrey said more farmers will be interested in attending the show.

“It will only draw more people,” Godfrey said. “We love to be at the show and close to farmers.”

Richland Community College is supporting Farm Progress Show organizers as the expansion is completed, said Greg Florian, the college’s vice president of finance and administration.

“It’s a natural progression as it continues to grow,” Florian said. “We’re home base for them. This is a premier site.”

The expansion is coming together rather quickly after a drainage pond was filled in, Florian said. The south side of the exhibit field toward the main part of Richland’s campus was a logical pick for the expansion because of the way it was sloped, requiring less grading before it is completed, he said.

A sewer system is in place under the expanded show site, Florian said.

All of the work is being done as more than 600 exhibitors are interested in being at the show. For once, Wild said the exhibit field has room to spare with open lots and no interested exhibitor being turned away due to lack of space.

Farm Progress Show Manager Matt Jungmann looks back at when the site was originally developed in 2004 and 2005. He said it took 305 days to get the work done then.

“It has blossomed since then,” Jungmann said. “It continues to grow. Exhibitor demand is as strong as ever. It is going to be a good place going into the future.”

Wild said crops for field demonstrations are progressing well and his hope is the weather cooperates so the fields will be dry enough come show time.

The focus in the coming weeks is making sure all the tents in place, but, so far, Wild said more tents are up than by this time in previous years. The frame of the main varied industries tent is up, but Wild said the expansion needs to be ready in the next few weeks, as a second will be added in that area.

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