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

  • Feedmill.jpg
    Hang around Fred’s Garage long enough, and you’ll expect to hear the bell when a car pulls in and see a uniformed teenager run out to pump gas, wash the windshield and check the oil.
  • Feedmill-1.jpg
    Carl and Patti Kitchen in their feed mill. Live chicks provide an authentic touch. “Years ago, if you wanted to buy chicks, you’d go to the feed mill,” Carl says.
  • MeltonDearing.jpg
    Melton Dearing at the wheel of his Hoover tractor, built from a Model T Ford during the Great Depression. The homemade tractor cried out for customizing: Melton added a working siren from an Alabama Highway Patrol car and a piece of Ethiopian folk art on the radiator.
  • GeneHarkinsAmish.jpg
    Gene Harkins’ Amish tobacco barn was a good place to duck out of the sun during the Flywheelers show in February. During the heat of the summer, the grounds are quiet, Gene says. “That’s when you see wildlife around here: a panther or some bobcats, gators and silver foxes.”
  • PetterJuniorgasengine.jpg
    An English-made 1-1/2 hp Petter Junior gas engine from the collection of Heller Davis and John Davis. The floral display is not original to the engine, but is an accurate reflection of the light-hearted spirit prevalent at the Florida Flywheelers show.
  • GailHoyt.jpg
    Gail Hoyt, Center Hill, Fla., drove a 1972 Massey-Harris 10 garden tractor through the daily parade, under the watchful eye of her dog Lucky. The Flywheelers’ daily parade is more than a procession of vintage equipment: It’s pure entertainment.
  • GlenFlowers.jpg
    Glen Flowers puts a fine polish on a 1956 Massey-Harris Pacer owned by Darry B. Lee, Four Oaks, N.C., and displayed as part of the show’s feature (Wallis, Massey-Harris, Ferguson and Massey Ferguson). Darry bought the tractor from a neighbor and did a complete restoration, adding it to his collection of small tractors used on small tobacco farms. The Pacer is outfitted with a John Blue fertilizer applicator with auger, and the original Fire-stone tires. “I like Massey,” Darry says, “but really, I like them all.”
  • MasseyHarris.jpg
    Massey-Harris memorabilia displayed by Ken Reichert, Ilderton, Ontario, Canada.
  • DickEdwards.jpg
    Collections displayed at Flywheeler Park run the gamut from the very large to the very small. Here, part of a collection of egg scales displayed by Dick Edwards.
  • BrianHarris.jpg
    Brian Harris with the half-scale 20 hp Burrell steam engine he spent five years making (all to ASME code). The engine has no castings: Everything was fabricated. “I did the cylinder block first because I figured if I couldn’t do that, I couldn’t do the rest of it,” he says.
  • constructionequipment.jpg
    A scene from the very well stocked construction equipment demonstration area: Two dozers cabled together pull a ditching/tiling plow.

  • Feedmill.jpg
  • Feedmill-1.jpg
  • MeltonDearing.jpg
  • GeneHarkinsAmish.jpg
  • PetterJuniorgasengine.jpg
  • GailHoyt.jpg
  • GlenFlowers.jpg
  • MasseyHarris.jpg
  • DickEdwards.jpg
  • BrianHarris.jpg
  • constructionequipment.jpg

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."



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