There’s no place like home.
If the Badger Steam and Gas Engine Club had a motto, that’d be it. Club members put the finishing touches on their new home – an 80-acre complex outside Baraboo, Wis.,- just hours before the club’s annual show opened Aug. 21.
“We’ve had a very busy winter,” said club president Don Paskey, with no small understatement. During a 15-month period that began in May 1997, club members constructed 10 buildings on 40 acres at the site. Today, there are permanent buildings for gas engines, steam engines, the shingle mill, band saw, boiler, restrooms, an office and a retail bookstore.
And there’s still plenty of space for a flea market and parking.
The Badger show – one of the biggest engine shows in the state – was held at the Baraboo fairgrounds for 34 years. But as the club grew, the space there seemed to shrink. The decision was made to purchase land, and three years ago, volunteers began clearing brush at the new site. Nearly half of the 80-acre site remains heavily wooded, and shade is in abundant supply throughout the grounds.
The decision to relocate, and to purchase land, was a big step for the 600-member club.
“It was a very, very trying task,” he said. “But when you have very dedicated people, things can work. When you rent a show grounds, you’re restricted more in what you can do. We wanted to put up buildings, have a ‘yesteryear’ display. Now we have those, and we’re adding more. We’d like to build a big food court, and a blacksmith shop, and an old woodworking shop. And we want to bring in an old church from the country to hold our services in.”
But the work crew will be taking a well-deserved break first.
“We have about 150 members who are actively involved, who help with the work projects, and make donations of one kind or another,” Don said. “Of that 150, we probably had 50 who, in the last few months, were here seven days a week. We’ve been scurrying around to get things ready. A lot of these guys have been working here until midnight, night after night.
“It’s a lot of fun, but they’re getting tired. It’s time to take a breather for a month or so, and then start planning for next year’s show.”
As with every project, this one drew its share of opposition.
“Oh, we’ve encountered small problems, and had disagreements,” Don said. “That’s common. You just need a very good working relationship on the board, which we have, and on the land development committee, which we have.”
The undertaking resulted in more than just expanded show grounds.
“The project has generated a lot of enthusiasm,” Don said. “People who were not overly active (in the club) before have shown a lot of interest and support in how we’ve grown.
“Sometimes change is hard to accept, but we try to remember we’re doing it for the benefit of the club,” he said. “When there’s enthusiasm, when people are enjoying what they’re doing, the work isn’t so hard. Now we have something to show for it.”
And what home would be complete without a welcome mat?
“Our goal is to accommodate all the people, and make this a pleasant and enjoyable event,” Don said. “There’s a growing interest in antiques, and in farm practices of yesteryear. And the flea market is a growing thing. The women’s auxiliary does a great job with the crafts and concessions. The combination of all those things gets the whole family involved. We try to have a big variety of things going on, something for everyone.”
Try this for variety: The Badger show offers clover hulling, threshing, corn shredding, sawing logs, band mill, shingle making machine, one of the largest displays of gas engines in the area, steam engines, oil pulls,a large display of antique tractors, old farm machinery; hog oilers, antique snowmobiles, chainsaws, wrenches, cream separators, windmills, flea market, steam-powered well drilling, blacksmithing, crafts, homemade ice cream (cranked by gas engines) and camping (for exhibitors only). FC
For more information: Badger Steam & Gas Engine Club, Inc., PO Box 255, Baraboo, WI 53913; on-line at http://www.badgersteamandgas.com.