582 West Lincoln Highway DeKalb, Illinois 60115
8,941 automobiles rolled through the gates of the Taylor Marshall Farm on Plank Road North of Sycamore, Illinois on August 7-8-9-10 bringing thousands of spectators to the 19th Annual Steam Engine Show and Threshing Bee, 'The Sycamore Show', sponsored by the Northern Illinois Steam Power Club, a-not-for-profit organization. This is not the largest of the steam engine shows, but from the comments of those who come back year after year, it is one of the best.
Starting at about 9 a.m. every morning there was a varied program, under the supervision of Roger Baumgartner, providing many things for spectators. The big steam engines were operating the threshing machines with Leslie Petersen in charge; the saw-mill was using steam power and President John Malsch was supervising work there. An old corn chopper with a blower was cutting green corn stalks demonstrating silo filling with cattle feed. Model steam engines were working on the buzz saw cutting slab wood for the big engines to burn.
Over 175 hit and miss gas engines of all sizes popping away in a group by themselves powering simulated water systems, buzz saws, generators, washing machines and some 'Rube Goldberg' contraptions with a lot of activated parts demonstrating how to put the cat out for the night with out getting out of your easy chair in front of the TV. . . .once you got the engine started!
Incidentally that Flink Fan draws a lot of questions. It was built by club-member and director Gene Flink, patterned after the Baker fan which was designed to test the efficiency of a steam engine. Weights were applied putting more pressure on the brakes on the fan, in turn, coal used to fire the engine is weighed and after the fan is operated by the engine for half an hour, one can use an abacus, computer, or a dull lead pencil and the back of a politician's poster and come up with the footpounds of energy, per pound of coal per hour. . .I got lost someplace there's supposed to be water, steam cylinder oil, and a state boiler inspector in there. But it really doesn't matter. . .the fan blows a nice breeze through the building where the 4-H Club exhibits a petting zoo of farm animals.
Flour grinding with an old stone mill was busy all the time grinding whole wheat and whole rye flour. This was sold at three pounds for a dollar and the Wielert boys were busy for long hours every day. Close by was the shingle mill demonstration where Chuck Malsch sawed huge blocks of cedar into evenly tapered wood shingles. This was in contrast to the hand method of splitting, using hand tools, cedar shingle shakes, the thick heavy wood shingles. The shake-makers alternated their work with rail-splitting, gate and fence making, using antique hand tools and old telephone poles for their stock.
Our big saw-mill was busy all four days sawing lumber from huge oak, walnut, ash, and hickory logs. This is interesting to a lot of people and consumes a lot of camera film (there is always an ample supply of film in the Ladies' Hobby Tent). President John Malsch and director Charles Gould put in a lot of time on the saw-mill. Different engines are used to power the mill taking turns every couple hours.
On display throughout the grounds are many items of antique farm machinery. . .hand potato planters, corn shellers, horse-powered grain elevators, thistle cutter, plows, old horse-drawn wagons with wood spoke wheels and steel rims. A full sized separator is on display with cutaway sections that shows how the threshing machine operates separating the grain from the straw and chaff. Rupert Jordan, a qualified separator man, explains this operation to groups several times a day. An old Case steam engine boiler is also on display with sections cut out. The various components are numbered and by referring to a large code-card one can understand the purpose of all the vital parts of the boiler and how it works.
Displays in the large antique tent have sleighs, buggies, the country general store, 1890 farm kitchen, clothing on mannequins of the 1809 period, wooden hand tools, blacksmith tools, harness, and other farm necessities. A visual history of electricity on the farm. . .early fixtures, bulbs and sockets, appliances and wire make this tent a display of how things were in the 'Olden Days'. Mrs. Allan Wielert and Mrs. Burton Wielert are responsible for this wonderful project and it improves each year.
Several Flea Market booths attracted many visitors because the selections were unusual and the displays attractive to bargain seekers.
According to our registration book, which is in the Ladies' Hobby Tent, people from eighteen states, Canada and the United Kingdom registered. There were many things in this huge tent including craft work demonstrations and sales, plants and flowers, home baked goods, fancy work, novelties, white elephant sale (including 14 gallons of Candy Pink paint to paint your white elephant!, show buttons and memberships. Kathleen Levine, Lottie Malsch, Pat Malsch, Mrs. Charles Drake and Mrs. Les Johnson were steady workers in this tent.
Four days of beautiful weather in a nice grove of hickory and oak trees to provide plenty of shade make this a site for pleasant recreation for thousands of men, women and children. The turf is heavy which keeps the dust down, threshing takes place in a natural amphitheater so all can see and the camera fans get some excellent pictures.
At 1:30 every day there is a parade of all the engines and the antique tractors pulling the equipment that is movable on wheels. A long circular route allows several thousand people to get a good view of the over 100 pieces of antique farm equipment move by in a panorama of nostalgia. Mr. and Mrs. Taylor Marshall, owners of the grounds, lead the parade with their John Deere tractor pulling a float with the Sycamore Kitchen Band. . .the Jolly Kitchenettes'. . . a really fine musical group with a repertoire of toe-tapping tunes. Clifford Elliot mans the public address system and does a marvelous job of identifying the equipment, the engineers and drivers as well as being on hand all day for special announcements.
Northern Illinois Steam Power Club is a not-for-profit organization. None of the officers, directors or members who work receive any cash remuneration for their effort. For the 20 directors who are elected by the membership, the show is a year 'round task. . .one show isn't completed before plans are being made for next year's show and work being started. Money accumulated from admissions, after expenses are paid, is put back into the show facilities to make a better show, with more equipment and more convenience for people who attend.
Over the past few years improvements have been made for drainage in the grove, heavy-duty wiring has been installed, sanitary vault type toilet facilities have been installed and they are kept clan during the show despite the tremendous amount of use. In 1974 a new deep well was drilled that gives an ample supply of good, state tested, drinking water. A daily policing of the grounds, and daily removal of the garbage and litter keeps the. area in a neat, clean condition all during the show.
Food, food tents and equipment are inspected by the DeKalb County Health officer and regulations are enforced. This provides no great problem because the Charter Grove Grange and Wilder Fay's Pork Chop and Chicken Barbecue have been regular caterers of fine food at reasonable prices at this show for many years.
DeKalb County Sheriff's Auxiliary takes care of Traffic Control and Future Farmers of America handle the parking.
Next year's show dates are August 12-13-14-15, 1976. . .our 20th Annual Steam Engine Show and Threshing Bee and Clara Schram and Chuck Gould are already lining up equipment and making arrangements for transportation to bring it in to a bigger and better show.
Hope we'll see you at 'The Sycamore Show'!