Towering Titans: Windmillers' Trade Fair Celebrates Traditional Farm Icon

Enthusiasts gather to share a love of antique windmills and windmill models.

| April 2008

A timeless icon of American agriculture had its day in the sun at the 19th annual International Windmillers' Trade Fair held on the high plains of eastern Colorado in June 2007. The event celebrated the history of windmills in America and the camaraderie of windmill enthusiasts who gather annually to talk shop.

Held at different locations each year, the trade fair routinely incorporates local color. The 2007 event at Lamar, Colo., offered a particularly interesting perspective on the evolution of wind power: The show was held near one of the largest wind farms in the U.S., Colorado Green Wind Power Project. Located 20 miles south of Lamar, the project was developed to help meet Colorado's demand for renewable energy. Completed in 2003, Colorado Green utilizes 108 GE 1.5 MW wind turbines, each 328 feet tall.

Colorado Green is built on 11,000 acres that is also home to a working cattle ranch. Ironically, rancher Bob Emick and his wife, Helen, are windmill enthusiasts. Today, their collection of antique windmills stands shoulder-to-shoulder with state-of-the-art turbines.

Tours of the wind farm and the Emick ranch were a unique component of the 2007 trade fair (held June 13-16), which also featured a swap meet, art show, ice cream social and trivia contest. And, though antique windmills hardly seem portable enough to take to shows, several full-size mills were trailered in for display.

At least one collector's treasures fit on a tabletop. Henry Hinz, Hutchinson, Kan., displayed a stunning salesman's sample windmill measuring just 38 inches tall with an 18-inch wheel. Likely used in the classroom for hands-on instruction, the Halladay Standard model is a faithful replica of an early self-regulating windmill that dates to the 1880s.

It's not the kind of piece you find just anywhere: Henry says collectors know of just five other Halladay salesman's samples. He got this one through a live auction in Austria. "The biggest change in this hobby in the last five years has been eBay," Henry says. "I don't know how to turn on a computer, but my wife does."