Big Fun at a Small Tractor Show

A southern Wisconsin tractor show is packed with vintage iron treasures.


| April 2016



John Walleser

John Walleser with his Massey-Harris Pony diesel, the “pride and joy” of his collection.

Photo by Larry Scheckel

Southern Wisconsin is home to several premium antique tractor shows, including the Badger Steam & Gas Show, Baraboo, and the Rock River Thresheree, Edgerton. But it’s also home to at least one outstanding small show. The Coulee Antique Engine Club, based at show grounds a few miles north of Westby in Vernon, Wisconsin, offers a fine all-volunteer show.

Show is a family affair

Held the final weekend of July in 2015, the three-day show – the club’s 44th annual show – is truly a family affair. The Kyle Semke family is in charge of the threshing. Kyle is club president. The Arnie and Linda Klinkner family have taken on major duties. Their son, Dan, is vice president and runs the food stand. Arnie helps manage the office, and Linda directs the first aid and first responders, if needed. Norbert Burch is in charge of the gate, taking in $5 for a button, good for the entire three-day show. Jerry Marks, Jerry Johnson and Norbert prepare the grounds for the show.

In addition to working in the kitchen, Linda also presides over of the sawdust pile, a popular attraction for children. “I throw in about $70 of coins during the show,” she says. “I scatter some in every two hours or so. The kids mine the sawdust pile for coins and it really keeps them busy.” The club owns a bounce house and volunteers bring in slides and swing sets, sand boxes, pedal tractors and puzzles.

John Wangen takes care of gas engines, signage, benches and the club headquarters in the La Crosse Plow building. His son, Anthony Wangen, is responsible for the tractor pull, camping, the bounce house and grounds.

Strong membership base

The Coulee Antique Engine Club started in 1972, when a group of enthusiasts met in the Dahl Drugstore parking lot in nearby Viroqua. Three charter members – Pastor Tom Olson, Ellsworth Olson and Wilmer Homestead – remain active participants.

In 2003, the club purchased 40 acres of land and erected a $30,000 exhibition building (the building was paid off in five years). Lifetime memberships are sold for $50. Today, some 300 members bring displays to shows. Using a club-owned grain drill, volunteers plant winter wheat on the club-owned ground. They use a Minnesota grain binder to cut and shock the wheat for threshing demonstrations. Club members also plant corn for shredding demonstrations at the following year’s show.