Scenic Drive Festival Keeps it Simple at Morris Park

Van Buren County's annual Scenic Drive Festival, held at a pioneer settlement, has a flavor all its own.

| September 2016

  • Interior of the old schoolhouse at Morris Park.
    Photo by Teri McManus
  • Andy Withrow’s Belle City fodder cutter. In restoring the piece, which dates to the early 1900s, Andy completely disassembled it, wire-brushed the components and applied a sealer over the original paint.
    Photo by Teri McManus
  • The Morris Park museum is housed in this fine replica of a century-old barn. Displays in the barn, which dates to the 1960s, include everything from household items to a full-size Jayhawk hay stacker.
    Photo by Teri McManus
  • A skid-steer delivers a log to the sawmill.
    Photo by Teri McManus
  • Hand-tying bales produced by an Oliver Ann Arbor press.
    Teri McManus
  • A Sandwich corn sheller, one of the working units at the show.
    Photo by Teri McManus
  • A 1923 20-40 Rumely Model G owned by Andy Withrow. “I’d been wanting a Rumely for several years when I got this,” he says. “There aren’t a lot of them in this part of the country.”
    Photo by Teri McManus
  • Blacksmith Waunita Philips, Birmingham, Iowa, gives a demonstration at her anvil.
    Photo by Teri McManus

For a certain kind of old iron enthusiast, it is hard to imagine a more perfect show than the one put on at Morris Park in Van Buren County, Iowa, each October. If you’re the kind of person who likes to put old farm equipment through its paces, if an interesting piece holds more appeal than a like-new restoration, if crowds and vendors and golf carts are not your idea of a good time, you might want to study up on this show.

Owned and operated by the Van Buren County Conservation Board, Morris Park is a 60-acre park located 4 miles northeast of Stockport. Heavily wooded, the park is quiet and peaceful. Fifteen camping spaces (modern and primitive) are tucked among the trees. A 1-acre pond is stocked with bass and bluegill; there are nature trails and picnic areas.

The park is a memorial to Henry and Jane Morris, who settled the area in 1838. Established by the couple’s sons in 1938, Morris Park is now home to several historic buildings (including a replica of the family’s original cabin, an old country schoolhouse, music hall and art hall, and a full-size replica of a turn-of-the-century barn), each containing displays of rural life in the 1800s.

During Van Buren County’s annual Scenic Drive Festival, Morris Park is like summer camp for people who love antique farm equipment. A week before the two-day show starts, they start hauling in multiple loads of antique equipment. Then they set up camp and the fun begins. “There are not many shows where guys can play with this old equipment anymore,” says Dorothy Gilbert, project coordinator. “That’s what brings people here: They come to play.”

Busy hub of activity

At the 2015 show – the fourth one held at Morris Park – a corn sheller and husker-shredder are put to work near a wagonload of corn stalks and a century-old 1-row binder. Logs of wild cherry are run through a sawmill powered by a deep-throated Rumely. Hand-tied rectangular bales chug out of an old hay press. A stack of cane wait next to a sorghum mill. A team of horses pull a wagon around the grounds.

Jerry Daniels, Moulton, Iowa, powers his U.S. Standard husker-shredder with his 1928 John Deere Model D. “It’s the first time I’ve had this tractor on the shredder,” he says. “It has new bearings and I changed out all the gears.” An engine enthusiast since childhood, Jerry has built a collection that now includes tractors, implements and engines.


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