Echoing throughout the Husker Harvest Days fields is a familiar voice.
“Next up is McFarlane’s Incite 5100, a universal tillage tool that works at shallow depths and high speed to slice and dice residue,” Deryl Hilligas says. This will be his 18th year as the voice of Husker Harvest Days field demonstrations.
Hilligas is a retired farmer from Hampton, Neb., where he raised row crops, cattle and even hogs during his early days. He still lives on the century family farm homestead.
But you can catch him daily during HHD perched in an auctioneer’s booth atop a truck bed with microphone in one hand and notecards in another.
A disc jockey for 47 years, Hilligas announced his fair share of weddings, anniversaries, car shows and county fairs. “It brings together my two passions — music and people,” he says. He brings that same flavor of excitement to the demonstration fields surrounding HHD.
On the first day of the event, Hilligas receives notecards — some typed, others handwritten — explaining the equipment. “I try to interpret what is on the card and make it something all ages will understand,” he says. “I want them to learn about the machine they are watching.”
His favorite time to announce is when companies bring out the heavy hitters — combines. Large crowds gather to watch new combines, headers and grain carts. Hilligas says seeing expressions on young HHD visitor faces is priceless. “I want them to be excited and in awe of these machines,” he says.
Sometimes that joy comes less from the machine and more from the mess-ups. Hilligas recalls one time there was a driver hyped about a new piece of tillage equipment. “I guess he really wanted others to see it run,” he recalls. “He started his pass and about 100 feet down the row, he realized he didn’t put the implement down. Even the crowd was signaling him.”
But in 2001, visitors were solemn. Hilligas was on the microphone during the 9/11 attacks. “It was just eerie,” he says. “Everyone was listening to the radio to see what was going on. No aircraft were flying. It was pure solitude out here.” Still, HHD went on.
Through the ups and downs, Hilligas says there is no other place he can imagine being in September than at HHD. “It is just a really enjoyable time,” he says. “The farmers and ranchers here are fun to interact with and be around.”
Hear Hilligas in action during the field demonstrations each day during Husker Harvest Days.