Summer farm shows are fun and interesting for the whole family. What better place for dad and grandpa to show the kids all the new shiny tractors and implements. I recall the first time my children went to a farm show. They couldn’t contain their excitement. My son, Jason, who was about two and a half years old, actually picked out his clothes the night before. I vividly remember that he wore his John Deere sweater, John Deere hat, blue jeans, and his little work boots. My daughter Jessica, who was four and a half years old, made sure to wear her pink cowboy boots because she was going to a farm show.

Farm shows, however, can be a dangerous place for children. Last year at Empire Farm Days a horrible accident occurred. A little boy got pinned underneath a heavy hoof trimming table. After his rescue, he was airlifted to a trauma center for a head injury and spent a lot of time rehabilitating.

The machinery at farm shows is not made for people to climb all over. Numerous times I have seen trade show exhibitors literally yank children off equipment before they fall and get hurt. Bernie Riopel, a well-known retired farm machinery representative and veteran of the trade show circuit, said there are two things children and parents need to remember, “They need to respect the equipment and respect the salespeople. The equipment is not a toy and it is not a playground; and the salespeople are there to talk with prospective customers.”

The exhibitors and show management do the best they can to make everything safe. But ultimately it is up to the parents to walk the equipment display area with children. Don’t take things for granted. A machinery jack can shift if the ground is wet, a safety guard may have inadvertently been left off, or a key could be left in a tractor by mistake.

Tractors, especially, are appealing to little boys and big boys, too. Tony Trotter, another veteran of the trade show circuit and retired tractor manager, pointed out that tractor seats can be very slippery during a show. The seats are cleaned with polishing chemicals. Parents need to stay close to any child sitting on a tractor seat, and help them get on and off. Don’t let a child climb up on a tractor by him or herself.

He says even the days prior to a show can be dangerous. Sometimes exhibitors bring their kids along while setting up displays. Tractors and equipment are off-loaded at a frantic pace, and no one is watching out for little ones running around. Exhibitors often work back-to-back trade shows, and get tired. Accidents happen when fatigue is involved. Trotter summed it up nicely, “Farm show safety is everyone’s job, but the people responsible for children at shows are the parents or guardians.”

Speaking as a seasoned exhibitor, but most importantly as a mother, I hope that when you bring your children to farm shows that you will watch over them closely and keep them safe.

Publisher’s note: Many thanks to Bernie Riopel from Concord, New Hampshire, and Tony Trotter from Hatboro, Pennsylvania, for their input on farm show safety.

Cover Photo by David Kilian/istock