Albany Iron Brings Threshing Show Thrills

Ed Bezanson and his wife visit the 28th Annual Pioneer Days Threshing Show held each year in Albany, Minn.


| March 2003



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Big prairie tractors

My wife and I found ourselves in the old Winnebago headed for Albany in early September 2002. Unfortunately, we aren't talking about the capitol of New York, which is only three hours away from our home in Connecticut. The Albany we headed for was a small Minnesota town 1,600 miles west. Our destination was the 28th Annual Pioneer Days Threshing Show held each year in Albany.

We normally don't drive so far to a show, but Pioneer Days featured two of my favorite clubs. The Antique Caterpillar Machinery Owners Club and the Historical Construction Equipment Association held their national shows together at Pioneer Days. Members from both clubs traveled from across the United States and overseas to put on one of the largest displays of construction equipment ever. In the final count, nearly 300 pieces were hauled to Minnesota for the show, with about 100 Caterpillars and 200 old construction machines on display.

My wife and I arrived a few days early, and the number of tractors and machines already there surprised us. Several hundred tractors were set up in the surrounding fields and more arrived daily. Fifty antique tractors would be considered a large show in New England, so I was impressed by the nearly 400 pieces of equipment at Albany. There were many tractors representing all the popular brands. I always look for the rare and unusual at any show, and I wasn't disappointed. Right in front was a good grouping of big prairie tractors. Included in the lineup were fine examples of Minneapolis-Moline, Twin Cities, Rumely, Avery and Hart-Parr tractors. The biggest surprise for me was the Pioneer tractor. I believe that prairie giant was built in Winona, Minn., and is quite rare. Besides the Pioneer I saw at the Earl Mahanka sale in 1991, it's only the second I've ever run across. The Pioneer stood out because of its very modern look. It would be wonderful to see that beautiful brute pull eight or 10 bottoms across the open prairie.

John Peternell, who helped start Pioneer Days in 1974, did a fantastic job making everyone feel welcome. He owns a large collection of old tractors, machinery and construction equipment, most of which is stored on the grounds year 'round. John and his friends spent all weekend playing on his iron toys, side by side with other collectors who brought equipment.

The thing that sets a Caterpillar construction equipment show apart from most others is the working exhibits. In fact, the old machinery is put to work as soon as it gets unloaded and usually works for the rest of the show. Collectors are always eager to lend a hand and show off their pieces. When our Albany host needed a new road built, there were plenty of volunteers. It was tricky work. The road had to conform with modern standards since it would eventually lead to a housing development. Hundreds of spectators watched the action. There were cable shovels, bulldozers, scrapers, trucks and many different machines working together to get as much finished as possible during the show.

The showground is unique. Through the years, the Pioneer Days show grounds was converted into a replica of a small, 19th-century Minnesota farm town. Old buildings have been moved onto the place or built to form a small village recreating rural life.