Fun in the Sun: The 2007 Florida Flywheeler's Show

Florida Flywheelers show delivers pure pleasure with extensive grounds, great collections and a spirit of fun.

| September 2007

Regulars on the show circuit know the lingo. You've got your parking lot shows, with exhibits neatly confined in a chalked grid on a large parking lot. You've got your working shows, with all manner of machines in perpetual motion, plowing, threshing, baling, sawing. And then down at the Florida Flywheelers Antique Engine Club, you've got your playing show, where everyone is as happy as kids at summer camp.

The locale has something to do with it. What's not to be happy about in central Florida in February, when the club holds its annual antique engine and tractor show? But there's more to it than that. The Flywheelers have created a unique environment that fosters fun, and it begins in the antique village.

The club's 240-acre show grounds midway between Ft. Meade and Avon Park is carved into two sections: the antique village and the show field. The show field is home to buildings housing private collections, a pulling track, antique construction equipment demonstration area and a mammoth swap meet. The antique village is a boom town of about 70 buildings reflecting the varied interests of club members. There's a grist mill and a blacksmith, hardware and sawmill, livery stable and slaughterhouse … and much, much more.

"We're constantly looking for ways to improve," says Florida Flywheelers President Dick Ambler. "We try to get people to display different things every year. This year, we added two days of horse pulls and opened up a lot more vendor area. We had our biggest day ever in February, with attendance estimated at 7,000. When we started out 15 years ago, nowhere in our wildest dreams did we expect this."

The village is built on a unique foundation. Each building is financed, built and furnished by club members, subject to club approval. Buildings belong to the club, but can be passed to a family member or sold to another club member. Most buildings are furnished with the builder's collection of farm-related items, and all are open to the public during shows.

Southern hospitality

Bill Eckhoff's red barn, for instance, is packed with everything from a Conestoga wagon to a 1921 John Deere Waterloo Boy tractor, vintage porcelain signs to shop tools, miniature tractors to an original 1911 Mullins boat. "I don't care who comes in here," Bill says with a smile. "They're going to find something they're going to like."