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Bringing history to life

Threshermen’s group revives farming’s past

Awesome steam engines — those big black prairie monsters from the bygone days of farming — will once again show their mettle this week at Channahon.

The 49th annual Will County Threshermen’s Association’s antique tractor, steam, and gas engine show — the Port Huron Extravaganza 2011 — will be under way at the Dollinger Family Farm from Thursday, July 21, through Sunday, July 24.

Threshermen’s Association President Patrick Noonan is looking forward to at least 3,000 satisfied visitors during the four-day event, which includes crowd-pleasers such as corn shelling, grain threshing, field demonstrations, a working sawmill, and the daily Parade of Power.

“It’s part of living history. You can visit museums and see displays just sitting there, whereas here at the show, the displays are actually working,” Noonan said Monday of the event.

“This is where people can learn where their food comes from. So many people say that as long as their food gets to the grocery store, they’re happy. This show gives you a little more respect for the work that goes into producing the food.”

Several Port Huron steam traction engines and perhaps gas tractors will be displayed at the event. The Port Huron Company manufactured gas tractors from 1918 to 1922.

About 200 vintage and antique farm tractors and other pieces of ag equipment will be on the grounds for visitors to admire and learn about the early days of agriculture in the Midwest and nation.

The reunion was begun 49 years ago by several farmers who once threshed the grain they raised on their farms. Threshing crews helped with the work, putting in long, arduous hours in the heat and humidity.

In about 1910, however, mechanically operated combines took over the work, displacing the threshing crews.

“So, several of the old-timers said it would be fun to get the old machines out and do a couple acres, and the reunion evolved from that,” Noonan said. “This is a re-creation of farming as it was 50 to 100 years ago.”

He said the public enjoys and learns from old-time threshing reunions and vintage tractor shows.

“As times goes on, less and less people are connected with agriculture, and they like the vintage machinery shows,” Noonan noted.

Volunteers are welcome to assist with the set-up for the show. The work is labor-intensive, he said, and many times, ex-farmers will offer to help out.

Among the long-time exhibitors who are back for this year’s event is George Schaaf of Frankfort, Ill., who will display 17 different pieces of vintage farm equipment. A hayrack tour Friday for home-schooled youngsters will feature the various types of equipment, with Noonan as moderator.

A special event will be the history of the Port Huron steam engine. The narration is at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Those who enjoy tractor pulls can watch antique tractors compete in two runs at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 23. A garden tractor pull is set for 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 24. A kids pedal tractor pull will be at noon Saturday and Sunday. These events are not sanctioned pulls.

The Parade of Power — a thrill for all those who like to watch equipment operate — is at 1:30 p.m. all four days of the show. Corn shelling and threshing exhibits are at about 3 p.m. each day.

Plowing with steam engines and gas tractors, an interesting demonstration, is at 3:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Sweet corn lovers will enjoy the fun Friday and Saturday, when the smell of sweet corn ears roasted with live steam from a steam engine is virtually guaranteed to tantalize all visitors. Serving times are 5 p.m. Friday, and 6 p.m. Saturday.

Exhibitors and WCTA members will be feted at an appreciation picnic at 6 p.m. Thursday. Kids will be treated to games and a magic show at noon Friday, and again 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Water fights by the Channahon, Minooka, and Plainfield Fire departments at 3 p.m. Friday might dampen the crowd a bit, but not its enthusiasm for a splashing good time.

Daily sights to behold include the steam-powered sawmill, petting zoo, farm playground, steam train rides, flea market and gift shop, great food, the steam engines and antique farm tractors and other equipment, stationary engines, vintage cars and trucks, and crafters’ exhibits.

The grounds will open to visitors at 9 a.m. all four days, and close after the last event each afternoon.
Dollinger Family Farm is located at 7520 Hansel Road in Channahon. The phone contact number is (815) 467-6766. Also by email at

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