Route 4, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa 52641
During the past year or so as major TV networks have “de-ruralized” their prime-time line-up of shows, those “producers” in the small midwestern community of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa kept pushing ahead with additional attractions for the largest ‘cornpone’ celebration of its kind anywhere in the world.
The event is not a TV spectacular. It is not a weekly serial. It is just one of the gayest, back-slapping events in the country that is staged once each year for five days. It is the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant to be held this year August 31st through September 4th.
Added this summer has been the Heritage Museum, which was officially opened Memorial Day and will remain open through the Reunion. It will finish its first run with the closing day of the 23rd annual Reunion. Daily hours are 9 a. m. to 4 p. m.
Friends from throughout the country have stopped by for a visit to see the largest collection of agricultural relics assembled in the 11/4 acre museum-under-roof. Exhibited together have been many of the ancient machines, farm implements, transportation vehicles, the country kitchen, and other vintage artifacts. Although silent during the summer, many of the engines and other machines will be operable during the fall festival.
Old Thresher offerings are family oriented. Entertainment is the kind that does not require a “rating” to help parents decide whether children should attend. In fact, the young are among the greatest and most loyal fans. Young hands can be seen helping on every turn – young visitors can be seen enjoying every minute of their time spent at Old Threshers as they capture a bit of the past witnessing this “scrap of yesteryear.”
Typical of the warmth Reunioners feel for what’s going on at this neighborly attraction was expressed by one visitor who said, “I look forward to Old Threshers like a child looks forward to Christmas.”
Significant statistics were compiled at the 1971 Reunion when more than 2,400 camping units swelled the large campground into a small city, and 156 airplanes brought visitors from twelve states. 15,000 taffy apples were consumed and ladies and lassies donned 800 colorful new sunbonnets they purchased at the country store in the Midwest village.
Each festival through the 23-year history of Old Threshers has offered new attractions. This year the Board of Directors is extending the trolley line another 1/4 mile south, passing more of the parking and camping areas as it extends to the site of the log cabin village where three buildings are being reconstructed.
A 126-year-old log house was moved this spring from Purdin, Missouri, a log stagecoach barn which served the stage line between Iowa City and Burlington, and another log house moved from nearby Oakland Mills will be the first buildings in the mid-1800 settlement.
The first building, a theatre museum to house tent, folk, and repertoire theatre memorabilia, is being readied in the turn-of-the-century village near the main Reunion grounds. Other buildings recently given to Old Threshers that will become a part of this new village include the 106-year-old Prairie Gem Church, and the 84-year-old Colfax School. Early-day equipment to completely furnish a doctor’s office was given to Old Threshers, also, by the family of the late Dr. F. S. Bonnell of Fairfield.
The steam engines, around which the Reunion is centered, will have a special treat in store when the large 110 hp Case engine recently acquired by the Board of Directors joins their ranks. It will be a part of the daily Cavalcade of Power when the nearly 100 large and small steam engines, the antique cars, gas tractors, and horsedrawn equipment parade in review.
Growth of the gas engine exhibit under the direction of the Iowa Chapter of the Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor association has been phenomenal, with 367 on hand in 1971 and more expected in 1972.
Steamers provide power for the sawmill, shingle maker, sorghum mill, veneer mill, grist mill, and will, as usual, test their power at the Prony brake and Baker fan.
Nearly thirty artisans will demonstrate their skills. Souvenir hunters are tempted to take home a bar of homemade soap, an apple doll, a piece of pottery, or possibly a toy whittled by hand.
Entertainment comes in a wide varietywhether it be educational or for sheer relaxation. A medicine show, band concert, parade of power, spelling bee, songfest, or religious service offer something to do at any hour of the day or evening. Those who seek competition will want to take part in the fiddlers’ contest, checker or horseshoe tournament.
Youngsters will thrill to a ride on the steam-powered carrousel, the antique trolley, horse-drawn wagons, fringed top surrey, or the big ride aboard the narrow-gauge train. The young crowd will want to buy their favorite penny candy at the country store or quiet their hungry appetites with the yummy caramel apples or home-cooked thresher meals.
Fans of early-day traveling tent shows will find the beloved Schaffner Players back for another annual appearance. It is an antique itself. Featured is its multi-talented owner, director, producer, and performer, Jimmy Davis, who plays Toby, the freckle-faced bumpkin a legend in mid-America.
Grand Ole Opry talent appearing three afternoons and evenings include: Friday Grandpa Jones, Sons of the Pioneers, and the Stoney Mountain Cloggers; Saturday Ferlin Huskie, Dottie West, and the Cloggers again; Sunday Sammi Smith and LeRoy Van Dyke and the Auctioneers.
Since the last Reunion nearly 1,500 school children have been conducted on guided tours of the Old Thresher grounds, and educational workshops are a part of the year-round program. Other offerings are illustrated lectures, films, educational and historical books, slide features, permanent and temporary exhibits.
Old Threshers is rural America of a half-century or more ago. It is a priceless assembly of memorabilia restored by loving hands.
Those who come will remember their visit for a long time. It is sparkling history presented by a dedicated Board of Directors and thousands of volunteers. IMA