Portland, Indiana 47371
One of the most interesting aspects of the annual Tri-State Gas
Engine and Tractor Show is the fact that each year at this time,
its leaders engage in 'conservative inflation' in their
predictions for the upcoming show.
Take last year's for example. About one month before the
1972 show was held, Tri-State President Woody Turner, RR 6,
Portland, Indiana, told this reporter he hoped for about 600 gas
engines to fill the Jay county Fairgrounds at this central Indiana
city near the Ohio border. And when he made that prediction he was
'inflating' the total number of gas engines which had come
To his surprise (and pleasure) over 700 came. Not only that but
the attendance jumped almost 5,000 from about 15,000 to over 20,000
in the three-day show.
This year's show will be held Aug. 24, 25 and 26 at the same
above location. And, as has happened each of the past seven years
since its origin, this year's show promises to be bigger and
better than ever before.
Turner said some of his fellow club members have estimated there
will be over 1,000 gas engines. One reason why the guess can't
be any more accurate than an ordinary prediction is that no prior
registration is required. Whoever shows up during the week
preceding the show gers a space for his engine. Turner never knows
ahead of time who is going to show.
'We take them all,' he said. 'If somebody comes with
his gas engine or steam engine or antique tractor, we make space
In addition, scads and scads of antique dealers set up their
displays. And special shows such as an 'old-time fiddlers'
contest' are held. Special crafts out of yesteryear such as
making apple butter, leather working and threshing to name a few
are available to the crowd.
It is easily the biggest and most enjoyable event not only in
Jay County, but perhaps in the east central section of the state
There are undoubtedly many reasons why the show has caught on
with so many viewers as well as those who come to display their
exhibits of Americana. Perhaps the most predominant of all is the
fact that the Jay Fairgrounds has plenty of shade trees among which
the crowd can stroll and the demonstrators can 'do their
thing' in relative comfort.
Turner said he is making plans to acquire additional parking
space which the size of the crowd requires.
Another reason may be the fact that the club is not trying to
use the event for any fund-raising project. 'We're not
interested in making a big profit,' Turner has said, 'we
just want to make enough money to meet our expenses. We have never
asked for charity. We believe in paying our own way which we have
done each time.'
Since the value of the machines and displays on hand easily run
into the millions of dollars, Turner has also taken extra
precaution in lining up police protection for the show. The Civil
Defense volunteers, auxiliary police, and members of a local
citizens band radio club regularly patrol the fairgrounds along
with members of the Portland Police Department and the Jay County
'With all these people coming, you have to have food
available,' Turner said,' so we advertised for some group
to come out and serve food there. The Rosary Society of the
Immaculate Conception Church in Portland took this function on and
have done a magnificent job for us.'
He explained that the club doesn't admit other groups to
prepare food because 'the other groups want short orders when
the Rosary Society serves meals which there isn't too much
profit on. We would be undercutting the society if we accepted the
short order groups.'
Although most engines naturally come from surrounding states of
Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Indiana, Turner said he has had some
requests for information from as far away as California.
Now that Turner and the other club officers can bask in the
success of their efforts, they can look back more easily on the
origins of the show when things weren't so certain. 'Some
of the members wanted to organize a club,' Turner said. 'I
think the first one to mention it was Morris Titus from Pendleton,
Indiana, our secretary-treasurer.
'So we met with the Fort Recovery, Ohio, Jaycees who were
then interested in a fund-raising event, and we decided to go in
with them for our first show at Fort Recovery.'
Turner said a meeting was held in 1966 to further the project.
'I sent out 35 cards for that meeting,' he recalled,
'and it was about 10 below zero that morning. Nevertheless,
about 13 fellows came from a 100-mile radius. From that, we
organized our club.'
Turner continued, 'we had our first show on a Saturday
afternoon and night and on Sunday. But on Saturday then, we had a
storm which just about fixed us. We still had about 500 paid
attendance. This meant we went pretty badly in the hole. I
personally was ready to give up but the rest of the fellows aid,
'No, let's go.' '
In 1967, the club arranged to have the second show at the Jay
County Fairgrounds. That year, Turner said an estimated 2,500 paid
to attend the show. 'This pretty well took care of our
expenses,' he said, 'and things went much more
The next year the crowd jumped to 3,500, and the show was on its
Turner said the show's popularity, while strong among older
persons who can remember the days in which the antique machines
were commonplace, also catches the fancy of many younger people as
well. He said the show always has a large number of young people
who are interested in the machines with which their parents grew
up. 'Several young people have taken up gas engines as their
hobby,' he added.
Make no mistake, Turner and his compatriots know what they want
and have largely achieved it. They set the show up with the
specific intention of correcting what they believed were errors in
other similar shows around the Midwest.
For example, no carnival rides will be included in a Tri-State
show. Turner and his fellow members want no part of commercializing
their venture. The show is an event for the basic appreciation of
those antique pieces of equipment that helped push America to the
The nostalgia which surrounds the Jay Fairgrounds those three
days cannot be surpassed. Turner said, 'One of the other
reasons we have progressed as we have is the fact that we have
studied other shows and copied what people said they liked about
them and discarded the ideas people didn't like. We have
stressed quality and action. We think we're the first show to
have the quality in engines and antique displays that we do
Yes, there is a great pride in Turner and his fellow club
members for their show. They built it and their efforts have paid
off. They believe their show is as fine as any offered in the
country if not better.
Certainly, they haven't lacked the energy to make it so.