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U of I researchers want your Farm Aid memories and memorabilia

An arial photo of the 1985 Farm Aid concert at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, IL. A huge stage is well lit and a massive crowd of tens of thousands of people are in front of it.
Dave Roesch

In 1985, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp founded Farm Aid, a massive concert benefit for farmers in America. That first concert was held here in Champaign, at Memorial Stadium; 80,000 people attended. 

Now, University of Illinois history students, under the supervision of Associate Professor Daniel Gilbert, are holding a “history harvest,” on April 1st to hear about your memories and experiences of the event. You can bring memorabilia; the students are ready to record oral histories and make digital copies of your ephemera (you won’t be giving up your materials). These stories and items will be acquired by the Champaign County History Museum and put on display at the Spurlock Museum in 2025 (for the 40th anniversary). 

From the project website:

History Harvest is a collaborative community history project that brings historians, students, and community together to collect, preserve, and share Champaign-Urbana’s history. Our History Harvest initiative was founded by the late Kathryn Oberdeck, who taught at the University of Illinois, Urbana – Champaign for many years. The initiative draws inspiration from the work of colleagues at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, where the original History Harvest project began. You can read more about previous UIUC History Harvest projects here, and explore the University of Nebraska’s History Harvest project here.

The event will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 1st at Memorial Stadium’s 77 Club. Here’s what they’re looking for:

Did you attend the concert? Did you work there? Do you remember the farm crisis of the 1980s? Do you have photographs or other materials that you would like to share? Please come to the History Harvest and help us tell the story of Farm Aid in Champaign!

Our team of history students is ready to record your memories as part of the Champaign County History Museum’s oral history collection. We are also equipped to make digital copies of any photographs, documents, or other artifacts that you would like to contribute to the museum’s online Farm Aid collection.

Farm Aid History Harvest
Memorial Stadium’s 77 Club
Sa April 1st, 3 to 7 p.m.


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