Plowing Match History - written in part by Elvina Magill Verduin
The following is the history of the plowing match as it was written by Elvina Magill-Verduin. She was married to Cornelius “Cornie” Verduin who, along with Jack Elliott and Fred Polinder, was instrumental in starting the plowing match tradition.
One spring day in 1942 as Cornie and Jack were driving through the country and admiring the freshly plowed fields, one of them said, “Let’s have a plowing match”. Not knowing how to go about such an enterprise, they took a jaunt to Chilliwack, B.C. where the plowing contest there was well established. The Canadian Plowing Society members willingly gave them valuable assistance in organization, classes, rules, scoring, and judging. A Canadian plow person even came down to Lynden to assist with the first match – which was a decided success in both displaying skills of the plow person and attendance of spectators. Thus began the first all-horse plowing match in the United States. They named it the International Plowing Match because Canadians continued to participate each year (in a special Canadian class because their plows are very different from the standard American plow).
The first of several interested plow men paid the expenses – which were minimal, even for those times. After the first year different money-making ideas were tried, the most successful being a pancake breakfast. The “Pancake Day” became well-established as a Lynden area spring traditional “get-together” where there was music and entertainment along with the pancakes, ham, etc. One set policy was no admission was to be charged – and another was things were to be kept informal with those attending being permitted to walk beside the plots, watch the horses at work, and visit with the plow person, if they so desired.
The International Plowing Matches were held in fields donated by farmers – always in April so the crops could be planted on time. Even today, the standing date for the Match is the third Saturday of April each year. The first match was held on the Depot Rd. on land owned by Dick Rutgers and which later became LTI headquarters. Another place was Harold and Sena Weidkamp’s property, now the Garden Drive residential area. Later, for a number of years, the match was held on the Pole Road on land Herman Miller leased from Bookey Farms.
Thus, the Plowing Match continued for many years. However in l982 the Northwest Washington Fair was asked to hold the match on the fairgrounds in conjunction with the new Spring Fair. This continued until 2009 when the match was held at the North Washington Implement site on Guide and Main Streets due to events scheduling. In 2010 (the 69th consecutive year) the Plowing Match was moved to Berthusen Park west of Lynden which is intended to become its permanent home along with the Puget Sound Antique Tractor and Machinery Association.
Today, the International Plowing Match remains a significant part of the local heritage and is sponsored by the Northwest Washington Fair and other businesses within the community. The International Plowing Association puts on the event and is an active group of volunteers consisting of multi-generational plowing families and people interested in preserving the tradition of the Plowing Match.