It is one of the great antique, old iron, farm shows in the country – the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. It’s held each Labor Day weekend, a five-day extravaganza of museums, antique agriculture equipment, steam engines, stage shows, parades, and food to die for. More than 100,000 visitors attend every year.
I was a new attendee this year. A very hot day on September 3, the first day of the Reunion. We parked in the shade of the local church, those nice Lutherans, walked across the narrow street to the northeast entrance, got a ticket for my wife, Ann, at $15 and a reduced veterans price of $10 for me. We thought it was a bargain.
We amble over to the main entertainment tent. A gospel-bluegrass family, the Wissmanns, was belting out the familiar "Rock of Ages."
To get the complete layout of the area, we hop on one of the tractor-pulled wagons that shuttle folks around the grounds. Has to be several hundred acres. There are 60 acres reserved just for campers. The Midwest Electric Railway is a trolley system that heads out to the campgrounds. The Midwest Central Railroad runs a narrow gauge track and steam train around the display area.
We meet with Leslie McManus, chief editor of Farm Collector magazine. We do a bit of writing for them. She and her assistant, Teri, took us to lunch in the nearby food tent.
After lunch, I start down the long lines of tractors, every make and model and color ever put out by American farm machinery manufacturers. The green John Deeres, red Masseys, orange Allis Chambers, and red Farmalls. The oldest ones really didn’t have much color, more like battleship gray, you know.
The parade of antique tractors, the Cavalcade of Power Parade, passed by the ample stadium stands. Starts at noon and goes until 1:30. Two rows of tractors roll by at the same time, the announcer booming out the name of the machine and its owner/operator. Those old steam engines were not environmentally nice and big puffs of black smoke bellow from their stacks. The wind was just right to get a good whiff of old iron. Leroy Van Dyke and Barbara Fairchild will perform in the evening, when the smoke clears.
I watch the guys cutting logs at the sawmill, the grain threshing and corn shelling; visit the Colfax school, the Prairie Gem Church and blacksmith shop; see hit and miss engines; tried the ice cream from the Methodist food stand; stopped by the saloon-reminding me of the Gunsmoke TV series; and witnessed a bank robbery and train holdup and jail break. Couldn’t believe they had so much lawlessness in eastern Iowa! Did a bit of walking among the hundreds of vendors.
We spend five hours at the Old Threshers Reunion. But we’re heading West to visit the Wessels Living Farm Museum at York, Nebraska, before motoring into the Rockies in Colorado.
Do visit the Mt. Pleasant, Iowa Old Threshers Reunion next year.