05 Broadway #5, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa 52641.
John Broadhead, Colchester, Illinois, steers a scale Case past a packed grandstand. The engine, made by L.W. demons of LeClaire, Iowa, is pulling a water wagon and 8 bottom John Deere model plow.
The 1989 Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa will go down in its history books as one of the best ever. Celebrating 40 years of remembering the days of 'steam and glory,' the folks in Mt. Pleasant 'put on' a reunion that will not soon be forgotten.
Despite a little too much 'dust control' (over an inch of rain) the first day, the event was recorded as having the third largest attendance in the history of the organization.
According to the Reunion's organizers, the Old Threshers Association sold 60,433 memberships, a 5.66 percent increase over 1988. Based on the multiple use of the memberships for more than one day of the Reunion, the estimated total attendance for the five day celebration of yester year was 135,974. Wow!
Still showing growth and improvements after 40 years, the Old Threshers Reunion shone like its 40 year color of ruby red in the south east Iowa countryside. Beginning in 1950 with a showing of fifteen steam traction engines and 8 separators, the event has grown into the largest historical show of its type celebrating our agricultural heritage. Again, in 1989, there were over 100 operating steam engines on display as well as nearly 900 gasoline engines and over 300 antique tractors.
Diversification has been the catalyst for growth of the event and now the sights and sounds of the Reunion are many and varied. The Reunion is a multi-faceted event which in 1989 as in previous years has held the interest of visitors attending from nearly all fifty states and several foreign countries.
When you think about it, our agricultural history is very rich in culture and tradition and Old Threshers has tried to bring this history to life in a variety of ways.
One of those traditions is music. Music of all kinds filled the air during the 1989 Reunion. (Besides the stack music, of course!) Throughout the grounds a tradition of music from homespun bluegrass and popular country to the old-time folk and gospel music could be heard. Many people enjoyed listening to a variety of talented vocalists and musicians in the popular 'family' tent as well as the main grandstand vocal artists that again proved to be an Old Thresher highlight for the fans of traditional and modern country music. The 'big name' entertainment included Lee Greenwood, Ray Stevens, Louise Mandrell and Eddie Rabbitt. They certainly provided some topnotch entertainment for many country music enthusiasts who traveled to the town of 7,800 people.
Another rich tradition in our agricultural past, which was again faithfully reproduced at the 40th Annual Old Threshers Reunion, was food. Oh, my! The food!
Over 22 food groups, made up of church and civic organizations and clubs located within a 25 mile radius of Mt. Pleasant, did a fantastic job in feeding the multitudes of hungry Reunion visitors. The types of food ranged from full 'thresher' meals to turkey, pork, beef and buffalo sandwiches. Other food items included catfish, biscuits and sausage gravy, and for the first time ever sold by the Mt. Pleasant Chamber of Commerce pizza! The ever popular funnel cakes, candied apples, caramel popcorn, and fried bread were delectables gobbled up by the 'truckloads.' Starvation was certainly not a concern at all during the event.
Craft demonstrations have also been a long time attraction at the Old Threshers Reunion. Over 100 crafts people from 15 states journeyed to the 40th Reunion to demonstrate their old-time skills and talents. The wide variety of craft demonstrations represented skills used prior to 1934. Many Reunion visitors took home a taste of country life that will remind them that items of practical use and beauty used to be made by hand and were made to last. A building full of antiques for sale also provided hours of browsing for the many 'treasure hunters' who wandered the Reunion grounds looking for just the right souvenir or gift item for themselves or that certain someone.
Charles and Alden Fricke of Mt. Union, Iowa stand by their 1922 25 HP Russell traction engine. This engine was 'Engine of the Year' at the 1989 Old Threshers Reunion.
The Wilke Machine Tool Exhibit was again a popular attraction located in the Heritage Museum. This three year project, scheduled for completion in 1990, will be a working display of trained machinists demonstrating the repair of automobile engines. Visitors in 1990 will be able to view the machine shop through windows, and there will be additional interpretive illustrations and graphics. Power for the exhibit will ultimately come from a stationary steam engine. The steam engine will turn assorted belts and line shafts that should provide a most interesting and 'moving' display.
Another highlight that sprang up on the Old Threshers horizon was the new sawn-log barn down in the Log Village. For those who haven't been at this most unique part of Old Threshers, the Log Village is a settlement located at the southern end of the large campground. It consists of four log structures, including the new barn, a school house, log house/ inn, and general mercantile store. The atmosphere found there is full of pioneer life in the 1800's. Hosted by Explorer Scout Post 1846, the village depicts the daily struggles and good times of early Americans who first broke the plains. The new sawn-log barn, built by Amish, dominated the skyline and provided an interesting backdrop to the many activities at the Log Village.
There were too many things going on during the Reunion for one person to see in one day. I haven't mentioned the beautifully restored antique cars and trucks, the really neat electric trolleys, and all the gain's on in the North Village. There is so much to see and do at this event!
Of course the main attraction at the five day festival that ended on Labor Day is the steam engines. Steam engines from the mighty locomotives to the smallest of models still take the spotlight at the Old Threshers Reunion. Because of the forethought of a few individuals in 1949, an event begun in 1950 is now a part of history itself as the largest steam show around.
The Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant brings together people who find enduring friendships and camaraderie that lasts a lifetime. Its growth and prosperity is a testimony to what people can do if and when they set their minds to it. Amazingly, the 40 year history of this event has been consistent in its original purpose. Commercialism has not polluted its success. From the looks of its 40th year it will continue to be successful. People will continue to come to Mt. Pleasant and the Old Threshers Reunion to experience something of the lives of those who lived before us. On August 30 through September 3, 1990 those iron machines will again come alive in Mt Pleasant. This annual Reunion is one you can always come home to.
Before the age of steam, horses were the prime 'tools' for turning the soil. One of the most popular attractions at the show is the Labor Day Invitational Horse Pull.
The No. 9 Shay locomotive rounds the corner headed into the North Village. The Midwest Central Railroad once again took hundreds of visitors back to the time when the steam train was a valuable mode of transportation.