What a way to celebrate being a Century Strong!

Iowa Farm Bureau members packed the grandstand at the Iowa State Fair last week to hear an exclusive concert by country music star Brett Eldredge in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

Young people crowded to the front, danced and repeated every lyric sung by Eldredge, an Illinois native who is one of Nashville’s rising stars. Older members caught up with friends and kept track of grandkids as they enjoyed the celebration on a perfect August afternoon, Farm Bureau Day, at the Iowa State Fair.

“It’s just a great day and a great way to celebrate the Farm Bureau centennial,” said Kim Knudsen of Mitchell County.

She was one of thousands of members who enjoyed the centennial concert on Aug. 14. Here is what a few of them had to say:

Dave Hommel of Grundy County, who attended the centennial concert with his wife, Laura, and three kids, said the concert highlights Farm Bureau’s continued grassroots focus.

“How many farm organizations would step outside the box to hold a concert like this for 14,000 members? I think it showed how much they still support farmers and families,” said Hommel. “It made me proud to see all the support. I’m proud to be a Farm Bureau member.”

“It’s just wonderful to be able to do this with my family,” said Sharon Hansen of Crawford County. “I am very thankful that we get to spend the whole day with my son and my grandchildren. We haven’t been here (to the Iowa State Fair) for a couple years, so it’s a nice reason to come back.”

Hansen also noted that her granddaughter, Clare, is a big country music fan and couldn’t wait to see Brett Eldredge.

“We just had to be here,” said Mary Ann Ledger of Jefferson County, who came with her husband, Joe. “We always try to come to the cookout contest and this year we also get to see the concert. What a great way to celebrate 100 years.”

Rose Danaher of Iowa County met up with three long-time friends from other parts of the state at the concert. “It’s really impressive to see so many people come together in support of one organization, especially on a work day. It was pretty incredible,” she said.

An avid hunter, Danaher said one of the highlights of the concert for her was when Eldredge came out onto the stage with his dog, Edgar, a young Weimaraner/Vizsla mix who has his own Instagram account with more than 200,000 followers. “It was amazing how calm his dog was in front of all these people,” she said. “That’s a hunting dog.”

“I think it’s exciting for all of the members to be able to come here and celebrate 100 years,” Patty Diest of Audubon County. “I think it’s cool that you’ve done this,” added her daughter, Julie McVay.

Blake Anderson, an ag instructor and FFA advisor at Nodaway Valley High School in Greenfield was impressed that the special concert attracted Farm Bureau members of all ages. “When I asked my students who wanted to go to the Brett Eldredge concert, their hands all shot up.”

For many members, the Brett Eldredge concert was a great way to reconnect with friends who they’ve met through Farm Bureau events over the years.

“It’s great to see so many people so you can catch up with your Farm Bureau family,” said Trent Stalzer of Hardin County.

Gary Rayhons of Hancock County said: “It took me an extra half-hour to get where I needed to go because I kept running into people I know.”

Farm Bureau’s deep roots in Iowa are reflected in the many generations of farmers who have volunteered their time to make the organization a Century Strong, Rayhons said.

“Over the years, there’s a lot of generations of families involved in Farm Bureau. It’s very strong,” said Rayhons, who followed in his dad’s footsteps as a Farm Bureau leader and hopes his own children will someday follow his example. “Farming has changed so much in the past 100 years, but the people haven’t, and the passion behind it hasn’t.”

Farm Bureau’s centennial celebration continues with the Annual Meeting this December in Des Moines. Look for more details in upcoming editions of the Spokesman.

Teresa Bjork, Tom Block and Dirck Steimel contributed to this report.