Towering Titans: Windmillers' Trade Fair Celebrates Traditional Farm Icon

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

| April 2008

  • Challenge large spear vaneless, circa 1912
    Challenge large spear vaneless, circa 1912, manufactured by the Challenge Co., Batavia, Ill., on the Bob Emick ranch, Lamar, Colo.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • Display model of a Halladay Standard windmill
    Display model of a Halladay Standard windmill owned by Henry Hinz, Hutchinson, Kan. Few windmill models include a full tower, and most show little more than the working mechanism. "But this one is as complete as they come," Henry says. "I'm sure it would pump water."
    Leslie C. McManus
  • Model artisan Garrett Hall with a salesman's sample Banner windmill
    Model artisan Garrett Hall with a salesman's sample Banner windmill he spent roughly 100 hours restoring.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • Intricate detail of a salesman's sample Samson windmill
    Intricate detail of a salesman's sample Samson windmill (manufactured by Stover Mfg. & Engine Co.) from the collection of Henry Hinz.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • Windmill collector Joe Harper
    Antique windmill collector Joe Harper, Sedgwick, Kan.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • A Challenge single-header windmill
    A Challenge single-header windmill built in the early 1890s and restored by Joe Harper, Sedgwick, Kan. "It's unique," Joe says. "Not many of these were made. It always reminds me of a large weathervane."
    Leslie C. McManus
  • State-of-the-art wind turbines and antique windmills side-by-side on the high plains
    Everything old is new again: State-of-the-art wind turbines and antique windmills side-by-side on the high plains.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • Few farm relics are as vulnerable to inclement weather as a standing windmill
    Few farm relics are as vulnerable to inclement weather as a standing windmill. This once-restored Dempster fell victim to a storm and is now relegated to the collector's bone yard.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • OK windmill, manufactured circa 1885 by the Challenge Co.
    OK windmill, manufactured circa 1885 by the Challenge Co., Batavia, Ill., on the Bob Emick ranch.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • Wolcott solid wheel
    Wolcott solid wheel, manufactured by Union Steel Products Co., circa 1885, on the Bob Emick ranch.
    Grady Fort
  • The Herrigs’ Elgin Victor’s blades are made of cypress; the rim is redwood.
    The Herrigs’ Elgin Victor’s blades are made of cypress; the rim is redwood.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • Parts, pieces and “lots of miscellaneous” are the order of the day at the trade fair’s swap meet.
    Parts, pieces and “lots of miscellaneous” are the order of the day at the trade fair’s swap meet.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • The Herrig brothers plan to paint the iron on this 10-foot Elgin Victor black and clear-coat the wood to preserve it
    The Herrig brothers plan to paint the iron on this 10-foot Elgin Victor black and clear-coat the wood to preserve it. “Originally it would have been white with red tips,” Jud says, “but the wood turned out so nice, with a lot of grain, that we’re not going to paint it.”
    Leslie C. McManus
  • Brothers Dan and Jud Herrig
    Brothers Dan and Jud Herrig (right), second generation windmillers from Elko, Minn.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • Original Star solid wheel
    Original Star solid wheel, manufactured by Flint & Walling Mfg. Co., circa 1880, awash in the sunset’s glow.
    Grady Fort
  • Windmills large and small showed up at the trade fair
    Windmills large and small showed up at the trade fair. Here, a toy windmill from the Arcade line, from the collection of Jim Holley, Fredericksburg, Texas.

  • Challenge large spear vaneless, circa 1912
  • Display model of a Halladay Standard windmill
  • Model artisan Garrett Hall with a salesman's sample Banner windmill
  • Intricate detail of a salesman's sample Samson windmill
  • Windmill collector Joe Harper
  • A Challenge single-header windmill
  • State-of-the-art wind turbines and antique windmills side-by-side on the high plains
  • Few farm relics are as vulnerable to inclement weather as a standing windmill
  • OK windmill, manufactured circa 1885 by the Challenge Co.
  • Wolcott solid wheel
  • The Herrigs’ Elgin Victor’s blades are made of cypress; the rim is redwood.
  • Parts, pieces and “lots of miscellaneous” are the order of the day at the trade fair’s swap meet.
  • The Herrig brothers plan to paint the iron on this 10-foot Elgin Victor black and clear-coat the wood to preserve it
  • Brothers Dan and Jud Herrig
  • Original Star solid wheel
  • Windmills large and small showed up at the trade fair

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."