History

Established in 1895 based on the Welsh heritage of the community. G.W. Thomas had attended the Wheatland Match for several years and after talking about it with his neighbors they decided to hold their own competition.

October 12, 1895 Winners and Contestants—From minutes after the first Big Rock Plowing Match

• Class 1-Gang Plow: Frank Miller, 1st prize $6

• Class 2-Riding Plow: Charles Brackett, 1st prize $4; Richard Thomas, 2nd prize $4. George Thomas.

• Class 3-Walking Plow: Benjamin Thomas, 1st prize $6; Joel Thomas, 2nd prize $4; William Edwards, 3rd prize $2. Lew K. Owens and Samuel Rowlett.

• Class 4-Boys under 18 years of age with any kind of plow: no entries

• Sweepstakes Best in any Class: Benjamin Thomas, $5

Acting Field Committee: Walter Scott, W.D. Powell & S.A. Chapman.

George Thomas was disqualified because he plowed with two horses on a 3-horse plow. Samuel Rowlett plowed only part of his land because it was too hard. A.E. Stark of Wheatland plowed with a Hummer Gang for Andrew Welch to show the plow.


• 1901–Prizes introduced. Plowing: horse blankets, a rifle, a saddle and a spring seat. Ladies Fair: jute spread, silver butter dish and a silk umbrella

• 1908–Ladies Fair hosted a baby show for children under 6-months: prettiest twin babies, fattest baby, prettiest boy and prettiest girl. Prizes were dresses, shoes and socks, baby spoon and baby pins.

• 1922–Horseshoe pitching contest introduced

• 1937–Big Rock’s big rock installed at the corner of Rt. 30 and Rhodes Avenue courtesy of the Plowing Match

• 1940–First female competitor, Mary Kay O’Connell, in plowing. She didn’t win, but got a ton of publicity for the Plowing Match.

• 1949/1950–Plowing Match Association purchased the W.E. Thomas Grove, 19 acres at $250 per acre

• 1951–Big Rock Plowing Match Association incorporated.
Plowing Match became a two-day event with Sunday called Homecoming Day and Union church services were held

• 1952–Ladies Fair and lunch stand buildings built. Tents werestill being used for school exhibits and other events.

• 1957–Dwight and Anna Davis bought land with the idea that it could be used for the plowing competition as this field was convenient to the park. The tradition has continued to this day, thanks to Dwight, Harley and Marvel Davis.

• 1957–The Plowing Match became a two-day mini-fair expanding on the plowing, Ladies Fair and dinners

• 1961–Davis Field was first used as home to the plowing match competition.

• 1963 – Big Rock Cowhands 4-H Club, with John Almburg and Paul Potter, built the cattle arena.

• 1967–Kenny Field was built in just 5-weeks with 325 cash contributions, and an estimated 8,500 hours. “Big Rock’s young and old worked together seven days a week to string electrical wire, lay blocks, shovel dirt, set light poles, and assist in any other necessary work.”

• 1970–Plowing Match and Kenny Field Boards became one Association

• 1970’s–Plowing competition introduced Novelty Class to display unusual plows and equipment

• 1984–Horse Show introduced

• 1988–Fun Run/Walk introduced

• 1989–Park District introduces the Prince & Princess contest

• 1990/91–Prairie State Railroad Club begins laying track to be able to run trains and offer rides

• 1991–Horse show arena installed and schedule of classes expanded

• 1994–Round Bale Roll Off contest introduced

• 1998–Bicycle parade introduced

• 1999–Big Rock Cowhands 4-H Club raffled off a hog at the Plowing Match

• 2017–Kenny Field 50th Anniversary

• 2018–Introduced Beer Garden and Bags Tournament

• 2019–First bull riding event

With the past and present on our minds, we look to the future with the hope of preserving the tradition for many generations. Thank you for your continued support of the Big Rock Plowing Match Festival.