The Rose City Threshing Bee

A reminder of what was so good about the good old days

| March/April 2000

Reprinted with permission from Senior Perspective, Vol. 6, No. 12, September 1999. 

A threshing bee aren't atypical in this part of the country, but there are a couple of things that set the Rose City Threshing Bee in Miltona, Minn., apart. It's held on an antique farm, and it takes place on grass.

Most threshing bees are like county fairs...engaging but also exhausting, dusty and dirty. Rose City's bee, which has grown steadily over thirteen years and now hosts about 5,000 visitors, plays itself out in and among the well-kept buildings and tents of Harvey Danielson's family farm. Spacious but still comfortably contained and child-friendly, the farm features acres of cool green grass and bountiful shade trees. A visitor can play all day and never feel anything but rested and content.

Everything about the Rose City Threshing Bee is old-fashioned, from the Douglas County Sheriff's Posse deputies mounted on horseback to direct parking traffic in a huge field to the Danielson farmhouse, originally built in the early part of the century and largely un renovated since then. "The farmhouse still has a functioning cook stove," says Joe Stein Hagen, a steam engine operator from Forada. "One Thanksgiving, Emmelyn Danielson cooked dinner on it for a bunch of visiting relatives and invited Terry Stanley [the show's gardener and florist] and me to eat with them." The meal was delicious, but the farmhouse is one of the few areas on the farm that is for family use only.

The bee is a laid-back event. There's little pressure to stick to any kind of a schedule. Folks can amble about and do as they please. Not even threshing drives the day's schedule; on Saturday, the threshing was postponed until afternoon, Stein Hagen explains, because "the crew likes to watch the tractor pull and if I don't have help, I can't thresh."

The tractor pull follows the parade, another popular event featuring antique cars, gas and steam engines, and of course, tractors. They form a mechanized rainbow of green John Deeres, orange Allis Chalmers, yellow Minneapolis-Molines and red Farmalls. The rainbow is mostly green, though, as John Deere's seem to outnumber the other tractors five to one. Also proudly displayed, because they are "originals," are the racks onto which the bundles are loaded for threshing. If they seem small, it's because they were originally pulled by horses, not tractors.