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The Big Dig

Historical construction group, Prairie Plowing Days organizers plan the ultimate “working show” in Kansas.

| June 2020

1916-Aultman-Taylor
This 1916 30-60 Aultman & Taylor, owned by Brad Smith, will be part of the local lineup at the Big Dig. Photo by Bruce Strait.

When the Historical Construction Equipment Assn. (HCEA) kicks off its 35th annual International Convention and Old Equipment Exposition in rural Kansas this summer, members will get a chance to do something unusual with their equipment: work.

Held in conjunction with Prairie Plowing Days, Aug. 28-30, the event will take place on the Kurt Kocher farm south of Concordia, where collectors will be able to put their equipment to work. During the COVID-19 pandemic, uncertainty is the hallmark of the spring of 2020. But as this issue goes to print in early April, organizers say it is far too early to cancel the event. And so, for now anyway, the show goes on.

Among the planned demonstrations:  A clamshell crane, scrapers and drag line will work on pond dams, a steam shovel on loan from the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag will be put through its paces, and a belly dump wagon will be used in a road-building demonstration. Organizers are expecting displays of as many as 200 pieces of antique construction equipment.



“These people are serious about their hobby,” says Kurt Kocher, one of three men (including Brad Smith and Dane Barclay) organizing the event. “At a lot of shows, all they can do is move a pile of dirt from one place to another. Here they’re going to dip out ponds, build roads and terraces and give demonstrations.”

steam-engines
This photo, taken at the Cloud County (Kan.) Fair in 2017, showcases working steam engines: Brad’s Aultman & Taylor, a Nichols & Shepard owned by Don Blecha and (far left) an Aultman & Taylor engine owned by Cliff Silsby. At front, on the trailer: a scale model gang plow and engine, both created by Dean Holbert. Photo by Bruce Strait.



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