More than a century of tradition

By on September 16, 2011

Big Rock Plowing Match set for Sept. 17-18

Big Rock—On Sept. 17, a tradition will continue that began back in 1894. It is one of the longest running annual events in the state. It’s the 117th Annual Big Rock Plowing Match.

What is a Plowing Match?
In 1894, Big Rock was an old Welch farming community, and at the end of each growing season, the farmers and their families would get together to celebrate the harvest of their labors by having what amounted to a very large picnic. During the picnic, the men would imbibe and boast as to who was the best farmer. The only way to prove who the best was was to compete against each other under strict sets of rules.

Here are some of the more memorable plowing matches:
1895—The very first plowing match was filled with controversy. Nine farmers competed, but after a long discussion, one was disqualified for only using two horses where the other eight used three.

1901—This was the first plowing match that included prizes. Some of the prizes were—not one but two horse blankets, a rifle, a saddle and a spring seat. The ladies fair also had prizes like jute spread, a silver butter dish and a silk umbrella.

1922—Horseshoe pitching contests were added to the weekend festivities. You had to pay to play, but the funds supported other aspects of the event. At the end of that year, the plowing match had almost $2,000 in the bank.

1937—At the corner of Route 30 and Rhodes Avenue in front of the Gazebo you will see a big rock in Big Rock. This was courtesy of yet another successful plowing match. At last—Big Rock, had an identity.

1940—The plowing match had its first female competitor, Mary Kay O’Connell. She didn’t win but got a ton of publicity for the Plowing Match association, and the annual event grew in popularity.

1950—The Big Rock Plowman’s Association finally found a permanent home. The 19-acre Plowman’s Park, as it is called today, was purchased for a whopping $4,750. They even had enough money to build a new woman’s fair building for the ladies.

1980—The very first horse show was added to the two-day event to pay homage to the faithful steeds that supported the farmers all the way back to the very beginning back in 1895. Today, you can see moms competing with their daughters for the prize and enjoying every minute of it.

In 1895, the farmers believed in having a friendly competition amongst themselves to see who could plow the straightest furrow with their team of horses along with many other skills necessary for farming, and in 2011, the object is still the same: compete and have fun.

As farming technology improved, many categories were established to keep the competition on a level playing field. As an example, if you are here on Saturday, you will see antique steel and rubber wheel tractors compete against each other at 9 a.m. Plowing continues in many categories for two days.

But that’s not all you will see when you come to the plowing match.

• Crafters from around the area
• A ladies fair second-to-none.
• An old-fashioned auction of the blue ribbon prize winning foods
• A Western and English horse show will be going on all day Saturday
• Children’s races begin at 9 a.m.
• Round Bail Roll-off at 3 p.m.
• The horseshoe tournament at 9 a.m.
• Free miniature train rides all day

Visit for more information.