Memorial Day Weekend Packs a Punch at Historic Santa Margarita Ranch

Join fellow community members in celebrating the heroes and history of America at the Best of the West Antique Equipment Show during Memorial Day Weekend. Hosted by the Paso Robles Pioneer Day Committee and Rossi Foundation, the family-friendly event takes place Friday through Sunday, May 25-27, at the Historic Santa Margarita Ranch.

“Over the years, the show has morphed beyond tractors to include planes, trains, engines, automobiles, steam trains, military vehicles, horses, mules, and antique trucks,” said Founder Tom Madden. “It is basically big kids and their toys! We have daily parades and a tremendous children’s play area, food and drink vendors, and much more. This event is Americana in every sense.”


Photo by Nicholas Mattson

All proceeds from the event help fund the Annual Paso Robles Pioneer Day celebration. Madden is highly involved with the Pioneer Day Committee and started the Santa Margarita Antique Equipment Show back in 2010.
“I got involved in Pioneer Day because of the tractors,” he said. “Some of my earliest memories as a kid were of watching the parade and being mesmerized as the tractors rolled down Spring Street in Paso Robles. The Pioneer Day Board is made up of tremendous people from all walks of life that pull together to promote and perpetuate the history of farming, agriculture, and western life in SLO County. The Best of the West show in Santa Margarita is a way for us to help fund Pioneer Day and get others involved.”

Paying Tribute To Service Members

The idea for the event first came about when Madden, an avid collector of antique tractors, attended the 2004 Tulare Antique Equipment Show featuring Holt and Best, predecessors to Caterpillar that merged together in 1925 to form Caterpillar. In 2008, Madden and a friend came up with the idea to put on a show for the National Antique Caterpillar Owners Club (NACOC) in Woodland where he served on the Heidrick Museum board.

SMR Best of the West Jeeps

Photo by Nicholas Mattson

It was the biggest gathering of Holt and Best and Caterpillar equipment that has ever been put together, according to Madden. He was then approached by others to help put on an antique show at Santa Margarita Ranch. The inaugural show was so successful Madden and his fellow volunteers decided to make it an annual event starting in 2014.
Held on Memorial Day Weekend, Madden’s intention from the start was to not only feature antique tractors and equipment, but for it to be a patriotic event as well.
“We honor all of our fallen service men and women each day at noon,” he said. “We have speakers, music, flyovers from Estrella Warbirds, and pay tribute to our service members on behalf of this great nation.”


Kids’ Corral, Pacific Coast Railroad, and More

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“Caroline,” the 1880 prairie-style steam engine at Santa Margarita Ranch was recently renovated and will be running the 5/8 scale track on Memorial Day Weekend. Contributed photo.

There are plenty of activities to keep the entire family entertained and involved. Over at the Kids’ Corral, the young ones will experience gold panning, a Farmers’ Market, and participate in butter making, roping, and more. There will also be a giant sand pile and tire climbing gym.
The steam-powered Pacific Coast Railroad is a favorite of visitors. It follows a narrow-gauge loop around the Santa Margarita Ranch headquarters, allowing for wide-open views of the surrounding meadows and mountains. There are three engines and four 5/8 scale passenger coaches from the Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad dating back to the 1950s.
Have you always wanted to take a ride in a WWII era B-25J Mitchell Bomber? Register for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take to the skies – a true thrill for veterans and aviation fans to be part of an amazing 30-minute flying experience at a cost of $425. See or call 805-377-2106 for more information.

Become an Exhibitor

Want to go beyond attending the show and become an exhibitor? The Best of the West folks would like to hear from you! They’re looking for a variety of displays and exhibits including tractors, and vintage items utilized in farming, earth moving, logging and general rural life dating from the 1970’s and older. Also, steam or gas engines dating 1850 to 1950, including hit and miss engines and power units, and classic automobiles and motorcycles.
bigsteam-minIn addition, military vehicles, tanks, halftracks, up jeeps, and trucks, used in the military of any country at any time as well as antique trucks, firetrucks, and trailers utilized in farming, ranching, construction, trucking, or commerce of any type.
Perhaps you have other items and displays complementary to the above-mentioned equipment or industry such as blacksmithing or you’re involved with early-American history reenactments – see to find out if your skills or items will be a good fit for the event.
Don’t forget those “original tractors” – horses and mules! Learn more about bringing animals with wagons, carts, plows, and graders by contacting Wade at 805-550-1078.
Find forms for exhibitors, vendors, RV & camping registration as well as dinner tickets, golf cart rentals, and dog rules at
Best of the West is operated 100 percent by volunteers. Interested in helping out? Contact Tara at

Antique Equipment Show
at the Historic Santa Margarita Ranch
Memorial Day Weekend
May 25–27
8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
General admission, day pass, $10
Weekend pass, $25
FREE admittance for active duty military in uniform
FREE admittance for children
ages 10 & under
For more information or
to purchase tickets, visit