We thank the Mountain Lake Observer/Butterfield Advocate Newspaper for permission to use the following article.
BTA President Wayne Kispert told Saturday's machinery parade crowd he'd see them next year. 'If the Good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise.'
The Good Lord seemed willing . . . but the creek did rise. Just a tad, though, as Saturday's gloomy skies turned into a mist in late afternoon then into rain. A half-inch of rain fell on Butterfield during the 11th annual Threshing Bee, including a pretty hefty downpour in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
But, as he's now done for 11 straight years, the Good Lord looked down on the Butterfield Threshermen and smiled. He gave them a gorgeous Sunday with bright sun, a nice breeze to fan the Tuberg Mill and temperatures that just eased over the 70 mark. If the Threshermen could make a request, it was the kind of day they'd have asked for.
That description of the skies completed, the inevitable guess at what the crowd numbered is next.
From several sources comes this compilation on what they observed.
Parking Chief Clarence Hovdet counted 1400 cars in the expanded parking lot Saturday,' he said. And Hovdet's stood out in the oats fields all 11 years, so his assessment of Saturday rates high. It also agrees with gate sales and general observation that Saturday was the biggest in history, no small part of it attributed to the fiddler's contest which boasted big crowds in front of the stage all day until the rains.
Sunday Hovdet had a physical count in the afternoon of 2534 at parade time. If you add to it the 350-plus camper units, equal to last year according to camper director Gene Lenning, and another 300 cars driven by workers and exhibitors, you pop the car total over the 3150 mark. And, if you figure four people per car as Hovdet estimates, you come up with about 12,500.
BTA treasurer Winnie Miller didn't have final gate receipts totaled, but he said advance button sales were up 15 per cent over a year ago while total button sales were down about 100 buttons from last year and last year they were down $900 from 1975. Of course, this includes only adults and not kids, who get in free.
But then you can complicate the mathematics by remembering that buttons at the gate this year were $2, not the $1.50 of 1976, so gate receipts were no doubt greater than last year when the BTA had its best year, but not in gate receipts.
Miller also estimates more visitors bought their buttons on Saturday and came back Sunday. In other words, more came for both days than ever.
If the good news is that it rained just one-half inch in Butterfield the bad news had to be it rained 1.5 inches four miles north of town and three inches at LaSalle. All this rain may have dampened spirits of those wanting to travel to Butterfield on Sunday, because the Watonwan Sheriff's office had its switchboard jammed by callers from afar asking to know if the show was still on.
Every exhibit was jammed with people. Long lines stood in front of the various pioneer village displays from the Tuberg homestead to the general store. The new depot proved quite an attraction, not only as a ticket office for the steam train rides, but because it was the newest attraction, done up authentically with railroad agent Bill Lenzen and his paraphernalia of the old railroad days. Max Borchert's train, too, seemed packed on every ride.
The sawmill sawed, the lath mill cut laths, the antique saws sawed, the wood splitter split, the shingle mill cut shingles and the antique planer cut pieces of cedar that drew a huge crowd of momento seekers.
There were long lines everywhere waiting to get into the finely appointed Mennonite House and Pioneer church. But seemingly nowhere were people more fascinated than at the Tuberg Mill, where Sunday's gentle breeze showed most something they'd never seen a windmill grinding wheat into flour. Getting a peek at the millstones grinding was nearly impossible Sunday afternoon, except for a long wait.
Four big steam engines and several scales did their work in the field Saturday. Sunday they had to wait until noon for the sun to dry the somewhat soggy oats stacks, but they threshed their way through the stacks although the going was slow on Sunday.
Seventy-nine tractors were on display at this year's show and over 50 antique cars and trucks, to boot, to help make it one of the biggest machinery parades in history. And when they weren't running, the antiques provided great stories for some visitors, memories for others.
The gas engine collections chugged under the trees in the great abundance everybody's grown to expect. Several new exhibitors came with their pets and there were all kinds of promises of 'new' engines that would be ready for the 1978 show.
But best of all, it was a 'quiet' show. No ugly incidents, no injuries, none of the worries that come with a big crowd. And the various events ran like clockwork, save the fiddling finals which had to move indoors to Engine House No. 1 and the band concert, which had to be cancelled because of rain.
'Everything worked just beautifully,' BTA Pres. Kispert said, 'I had so little to do I could have gone on vacation.'
Now, after a short rest, the planning will start again.
On August 19-20, 1978, the Threshermen will do it all over again.