The first annual reunion of the Mad River Steam and Gas Show was held at the Champaign County Fair-grounds, Urbana, Ohio, July 17, 18, 19, 20, 1980. In my 30 plus years of attending reunions, these grounds rate among the most pleasant of all!
Characteristic of most shows starting in mid-week, things were a little slow the first day. To those of us who participate, however, they are the most enjoyable for we can visit and inspect what is new in restored iron. It was soon evident there was going to be a lot of restored iron there too.
In all, 27 full-sized steamers arrived and they were a better than average group. Roger Drummond had his newly restored 30 horse undermounted Avery out for the first time. It was an immaculate job and won the Charlie Harrison Award for the finest restored engine of the year. Roger's brother, Gene, had his 80 Case there which was also making a first appearance after restoration. I am glad it wasn't my lot to decide which of the engines should receive the Harrison award.
The Case was 'stiff' from a lot of close fitting parts not broken in as yet. Clint Metzger helped Gene limber the engine with about two hours on one of the fans. The old Case responded beautifully to Clint's loving touch reminded one of a capable master and a faithful horse.
Gerald Knipper's old return flue Aultman-Taylor bevel gear engine was there. I have seen this engine in three states and it elicits more admiration from me each time.
It was the third day of the show be-fore I realized there were two Leader engines there. They were side-by-side on the fans so I checked with others and they confirmed the fact there were really two! Quite a record when only three (3) are known to exist!
They had the largest display of Case engines I had ever seen in one group12 of them. All they lacked was a 6 horse portable and a 110.
John McDowell had his 'power eater' generator there and Ashcrofts had their variable load fan working. A prony brake as well as a regular fan were also available to 'exercise' the engines. For their entertainment, they also had a saw-mill, shingle mill, and a couple separators.
The parade on Saturday was an all-day affair it seemed. Walter Harrison and I were somewhere in the middle with the 30-60 Aultman Taylor tractor. We never did see either end of that parade and my watch ran down three times before we got around. It was a typical Ohio summer day, hot and not a breeze stirring. The only breeze was when we were crossing the main drag thru town. The traffic officer waved us across but the old 30-60 has its gait and the poor officer's arm turned into a veritable windmill before we cleared that crossing.
My job on the Aultman-Taylor was that of public relations man more specifically, trying to convince four and five-year-olds we couldn't blow the whistle for them; we didn't have any it was a tractor! Not one of those kids believed me! The only friend I made that day was an English bulldog who was watching the parade, but I think he was really waiting for a cat to appear. The bull-dog and I hit it off in great shape and soon became good friends. The wife quipped it was because we had much in common.
Folks along the parade route served us with coffee and cold drinks which surely was hospitable. I never learned who the parade marshal was, but those ladies who were assistant marshals handled things like you wouldn't believe! Surely better than some of the grumpy old guys I've seen in other parades. If you are having a parade use lady marshals.
There was a good showing of tractors and flywheels. I always start out looking over the tractors but once a Hart-Parr shows up, I just don't get any further, so really didn't get to see all of the tractors.
The show doesn't show any 'growth rate' since it's only been held once. If they never grow any larger they will still stand as a better than average show.
The boys made out financially, we all had a good time, the Mad River was quite docile, and the weather was just right.