Showcasing antique engines and tractors galore, the 75th Annual National Threshers Association Reunion steams its way into the Fulton County Fairgrounds from Thursday through Sunday.
Visitors from across the country and Canada will gather to browse among approximately 65 huffing, puffing steam engines that maintained farm fields from before the 20th Century and into the 1950s. Guests can also admire tractors and Novo engines, and enjoy food and music during the three-day event.
The 2019 NTA reunion will highlight Port Huron steam engines – which were featured at the first event in 1945 – and Caterpillar tractors. All of the machines at the reunion are refurbished working models, allowing guests to view them in operation and speak with their owners.
NTA First Vice President Rusty Honsberger said 10,000 visitors are expected each day of the reunion, including people from Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri, Virginia, North Carolina, and Canada. The event typically draws about 500 campers, and attracts both the young and old.
“It seems like it keeps growing, keeps getting bigger,” Honsberger said. “(And) I’m not surprised that the younger generation is interested. It’s a good thing. This needs to continue.”
The event begins Thursday, June 27, with morning opening ceremonies. The reunion opens at 9 a.m. each day, with gates open until 11 p.m.
Activities will include sawing and threshing demonstrations, horsepower testing with a Prony brake, demonstrations with logs in a veneer mill, steam engine and tractor games, and a pulling sled for the equipment. There will be daily parades of steam engines and tractors past the fairgrounds grandstand, food and craft vendors, and music by bluegrass and country bands and local high school marching bands.
“It’s pretty fun stuff,” Honsberger said.
Steam engines stopped being produced in the 1920s, when they were replaced by modern gas tractors. The old engines were cumbersome and required a steady supply of fire and water to keep them working.
“All the equipment was stationary, and there were no combines. It was a lot of work,” Honsberger said.
Refurbishing and maintaining the antique machines isn’t cheap; an owner can pump as little as $10,000-$15,000 or as much as $60,000 into restoration. Buying a restored model outright can cost anywhere between $15,000-$90,000.
But Honsberger, who has been an NTA board of directors member since the 1970s, said collectors feel a sense of pride about the equipment. “Absolutely, because they are a lot of work to maintain,” he said.
According to the NTA website, the annual reunion has its roots in a display of three Port Huron tractors on the LeRoy Blaker farm in Alvordton, Ohio, on June 30, 1045. Three hundred people attended.
Honsberger said that small display evolved into the NTA.
The show transferred to Montpelier in 1953, then made its permanent home at the Fulton County Fairgrounds in 1965.
For Honsberger, the present reunion represents the farming community and old-school family values. He said the NTA’s goal is to preserve national heritage, “to show people how it was done in the old days. A lot of the owners love talking about their equipment and answering questions about it. It’s a really good time.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.