Middle schoolers win first place at Farm Toy Show

Dawson and Dylan Ricklefs and Keegan McElmeel won first place in the youth division at the National Farm Toy Show in Dyersville. Their farm display was a group effort, measuring 4-by-8 feet, equaling 600 acres. (Photo submitted)

Keegan McElmeel made all of the buildings by hand, wanting to showcase a modern farm. The boys said they get more points for custom-built structures.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

Three Monticello Middle School boys recently won a first-place trophy for their hard work in building a farm display for the National Farm Toy Show in Dyersville, Nov. 1-3.

     Dawson (eighth grade) and Dylan (sixth grade) Ricklefs and Keegan McElmeel (sixth grade) have been working together for eight months on a 4-foot-by8-foot 600-acre farm. The work was done in the Ricklefs’ basement whenever the boys had free time.

     “We knew we were going to do this in November after last year’s show,” said Dylan.

     Dawson entered the Farm Toy contest last year, but brought home fourth place.

     “We’ve been going to the show since we were 5 years old,” said Dawson.

     Each of the young men included their own personal touches throughout the farm display. For instance, Keegan shows pigs at the Jones County Fair, and wanted to make sure pigs were part of their farm.

     Dylan said it was important to have calves and feed. Dawson wanted to have farmers in the fields.

     “The farmers are chopping corn for silage and plowing and baling hay,” said Dawson.

     The display includes 170 stock cows, 80 fat steers, and 100 hogs.

     In order to know how to piece together their own farm display, the boys watched YouTube videos of other displays.

     Most of their parts and pieces were purchased online through Amazon. Keegan said he asked for some of his pieces for Christmas.

     Working as a group, it was cheaper to put the display together, and easier than working alone.

     “We all wanted to be there,” said Dawson.

     They trio arrived at the Farm Toy Show on Friday morning to set up their display, which took about an hour. That afternoon, the judges came through to look at the displays and ask questions of the owners. It wasn’t until Saturday morning the boys learned that won first place in the youth division.

     During the judging, the boys said the judge asked them what was going on at their farm, as well as the history of the farm. Their farm started in the 1900s, and showcases all new buildings.

     “My favorite part was what we built and custom built,” said Dawson.

     Keegan took pride in building each of the barns and structures by hand.

     “I bought tin and put in the rafters and frame,” explained Keegan. “We wanted it to look like a modern farm.”

     “The judges liked our buildings,” shared Dylan.

     Dawson took the tractors and modernized them according to today’s standards.

     Their barbed wire fence was also custom made with tin and strands of wire.

     The boys said you get more points if you build the structures yourself.

     Other unique details included realistic road signs, speed limit signs, and the address of the farm, which is the Ricklefs’ actual address.

     The display just features the farm, no residence.

     The crops in the fields include corn, soybeans and alfalfa.

     Getting first place was pretty exciting for the boys. They could tell the first-place trophy was theirs because the nameplate, which was covered up, was bigger than the nameplate on a trophy intended for just one individual. (Their plate contained all three of their names.)

     “I was surprised because, at first, I didn’t think ours turned out,” admitted Keegan. “I didn’t think we had enough time to finish.”

     The boys competed against three additional youth displays.

     Now that they’re accomplished their goal of first place, the boys plan to use their current display and turn it into another farm for next November’s Toy Show.

     “We want to start fresh,” said Dawson.

     “We want to build all of the machines and reuse what we have,” added Keegan.

     While there is a Toy Show in June, the boys said they need a full year before they’re ready for competition.

     “We want to add more detail, too,” said Dawson.

     Keegan is the son of Scott and Jessica McElmeel. Dawson and Dylan are the sons of Dustin and Lindsey Ricklefs.


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