The Michigan Steam Engine and Threshers didn’t lose any steam despite the weather that threatened to shut down the 53rd annual reunion from July 29 to July 31 in Mason, Mich.
“I’ve been here since ’63 and I have never seen so much rain,” said Club Vice President Sandy Smalley. “I had people calling and asking if we were cancelled.”
The event was far from cancelled and had an estimated 10,000 people come through the gates, according to Club Secretary John Every.
Despite that large number, it was actually down from the previous year due to the unpleasant weather, according to Smalley.
Smalley said, “This is the only year since the show has been in Mason that the attendance has not been greater then the previous year.”
Nevertheless, people still came out from across the nation just to attend the event that featured antique stream engines, threshers, and tractors.
“There’s more people that come from out of state then from here in Michigan,” Smalley said. “Some came from as far as California.”
With so many people coming from so far away, the festival grounds had to be specially prepared for the scores of vehicles that passed through the gates.
“We needed $8,000 dollars in stone to accommodate the vehicles, two different loads of gravel,” Smalley said.
Smalley, whose family has been a member of the club since 1967, said that the purpose of the club is to be a non-profit organization set up to preserve the steam era and educate the public.
Justin Ott was one of the club members featured in the event who made the journey to display his 1923 Baker Steam Engine Tractor.
Ott acquired his antique steam engine from his grandfather who also used to demonstrate how the vehicle worked in the past.
“He did it back in the 50s when steam engines were done and they had moved on to gas engines.” Ott said. “He always did it at our place to show people how it was done.”
The preparation for the event takes time and energy for everyone involved.
“A lot of stuff goes on in these three days,” Ott said. “It takes this club most of the year just to get ready for this show, there’s always something to do.”
Ott has been coming to the fair for over 20 years and his family has been involved with the club for over 40 years. However, getting his tractor in the fair was no easy feat.
Ott said: “I begged and begged and begged to get this thing out. I wanted to fix it up and get it out and see it run again. We worked on it for probably two and a half years to get it to where we wanted it. It means a lot to me to come out here to keep the tradition alive.”
Tradition is a very important part of what makes the event special to all the attendants of the reunion.
“A lot of your old steam engines are gone and it’s good to see the younger generations still keeping it alive,” Ott said.