You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. That old saw drifted into my consciousness after attending the Meriden (Kansas) Antique Engine and Threshers Assn. this summer. I’d been on the grounds for about seven minutes when a club member intercepted me. Within the next two minutes, he described the show as “one of the fastest growing summer family destinations in the Midwest.”
That statement caught my attention not only because it’s ambitious, but because it suggests an unusual awareness of what the show is and where it’s going. In the back of my mind, I was a tad bit skeptical. As the day unfolded, as I talked to person after person who spoke of the club’s growth, of the growing number of displays, of the growing attendance at monthly meetings, I came to understand that this was a collective vision – and that is precisely the kind of thing that separates the men from the boys.
Another thing stood out to me at this show. Not only does this group have a clear road map for the future, they have a keen appreciation for how they’ve gotten to where they are – and that is at least partially through a genuinely friendly alliance with a nearby club. If I got a dime for every time somebody said, “McLouth helps us, and we help them,” I could get one of those fancy cups of coffee from Starbucks.
I loved hearing that. In lo, these many years at Farm Collector, I’ve never encountered anything quite like it – and here it was in my own backyard. Quite the contrary, I’ve encountered clubs that actually seem to compete with each other, and club members who cast a decidedly negative spin on their neighbors’ efforts. Life is too short: That’s all I have to say about that.
We hear a lot these days about shows that are petering out, about an inability to find young folks to get involved, about the struggle to compete with the multitude of entertainment options available today. It’s an uphill battle, no doubt about it. But the folks in a small town in Kansas aren’t ready to turn off the lights just yet. In Meriden, if there’s a will, there’s a way. FC