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
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
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’
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.