Operating out of two permanent facilities two hours apart, the 200-member Maine Antique Power Assn. (MAPA) does things a little differently, but their goal is one shared by all old iron groups. “We are very dedicated to preservation,” says Gary Willison, MAPA vice president. “We don’t want to see these machines end up in junk yards or salvage yards.”
In lieu of showgrounds, the group (which was founded in 1973) holds displays each year at the Cumberland County Fair and the Skowhegan State Fair. MAPA has a building – a clubhouse, if you will – at each location. The group is contractually obligated to have each building open for the duration of the seven-day Cumberland event and the 10-day Skowhegan fair.
The buildings are manned from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. “We’ll have four to six people giving demonstrations every day,” Gary says. “Kids can shell and grind corn, and we’ll have the dog treadmill going with a man grinding an axe and a fodder cutting demonstration. That helps them understand the progression of power.”
Keeping the state’s heritage alive
Educating others – especially kids – is a key focus as the group seeks to preserve America’s mechanical past in order to better understand the future. “We get a lot of school groups,” Gary says. At Cumberland, they load up a two-horse treadmill with 10 kids at a time for what must be a nearly limitless source of energy.
Other kids are put to work providing power to an Ontario pulper. “They get a kick out of it because it throws vegetables everywhere. A club member found it in Canada. I’ve never seen anything even close to it,” Gary says. “Kids that age love to do something mechanical. Some stay with us until their parents drag them out.”
The group puts Maine history and heritage in the spotlight. The state’s logging industry is a popular feature, with displays of cordwood saws, splitters and drag saws. While some of the pieces displayed at the two sites are from members’ collections, many are club-owned. Restoration is a primary goal.
“We have old threshers and grinders but we want to show them operational,” Gary says. Members make sure that happens. “Our people are very dedicated to preservation, and we have some phenomenal mechanics in this group. They all just want to help. If your engine won’t start, it’s amazing how much help you’ll get.”
Putting a priority on safety
MAPA members gather for regular meetings and hold events in the spring and fall that are open to the public. And from May to late October, many hit the road to attend shows and events. “There are probably at least three dozen held all over Maine and New Hampshire,” Gary says, “and our members try to support them.”
Occasional fundraisers underwrite the group’s scholarship program. Each year scholarships are awarded to two Maine students, encouraging them to pursue a career path in mechanical engineering.
At their own shows, MAPA members prioritize safety. “That’s an issue we continually work on,” Gary says. Members want the public to enjoy their shows as much as they do. “This is a good social event,” he says. “A lot of our people love explaining this stuff to others. And it’s not just kids. Many adults don’t know anything about this hobby. At a show, I’ve been known to grab somebody who’s just walking by and say ‘come on in here and shell some corn.'” FC
For more information: Gary Willison, P.O. Box 156, Standish, ME 04084; (207) 642-2430. Maine Antique Power Assn., www.maineantiquepower.org. The Skowhegan state fair is held Aug. 11-20, 2022; the Cumberland County Fair is held Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2022.