1990 Midwest Old Threshers REUNION REPORT

John Deere gas engines

The popularity of 'Johnny Popper' tractors and John Deere gas engines was evident at the 1990 Old Threshers Reunion. A row of green could be seen in the tractor area (above) and a complete line of gas engines could be viewed at one exhibitor's s

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Midwest Old Threshers, Route 1, Threshers Road, Mount Pleasant, Iowa 52641. Photos by Jim Adams

Less than desirable weather and increased gasoline prices combined to have a negative effect on the 1990 Old Threshers Reunion's attendance figures. Final tallies show that the 1990 Reunion fell 3.72% behind the average attendance totals of the last decade of Reunion figures and 7.1% behind the record-setting 1989 Old Threshers Reunion. With 56,494 memberships sold this year, the estimated attendance over the five day event was set at 127,112 people (a multiplier of 2.25 is used with the total membership sold to  arrive at the estimated attendance).

The final figures for this year will be frustrating for the Board of Directors and staff. Frustrating in that changes in the weather and the global economy are totally beyond their control. The weather brought hot, humid days and scattered thunderstorms that dumped heavy amounts of rain. Rain that didn't necessarily fall in Mt. Pleasant, but did fall in the main drawing radius for the annual event. As a result, many potential visitors made the decision to stay at home. Likewise, the increased cost of gas at the pumps may have caused others to decide to save their money and not travel that weekend.

However, the people who did attend the 1990 Old Threshers Reunion saw no decrease in the entertainment and educational fun offered at the event. The weather did force the cancellation of the first and last Cavalcades of Power, but all of the country music shows and the invitational horse pull 'went on without a hitch.' In fact, both the country music shows and the horse pull nearly set attendance records. Some of the church and civic organizations operating food concessions realized slight decreases in gross sales, but most of the concessions increased on the sale of soft drinks and short orders to offset major declines. The Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers Association remains dedicated to the exclusive utilization of church and civic organizations whenever and wherever possible.

This policy attempts to ensure that net profits earned by these groups tend to stay in the communities of southeast Iowa.

All exhibit areas witnessed increased cooperation from their volunteers and exhibitors. The quality of exhibited machines also improved and all demonstrations drew large crowds. All area heads are to be commended for their efforts in organization and presentation.

The traction steam area saw a similar number of engines exhibited compared to last year. A late arrival was an old Minnesota Giant traction engine purchased by director Mike Parker, from Fairfield, Iowa. Parker acquired the engine at an auction and drove day and night to bring the engine back to the Old Threshers Reunion. Plans call for the engine to be restored by the 1991 Reunion.

In addition, the traction steam area (like the tractor and car areas), is preparing for the arrival of the International J.I. Case Heritage Foundation's annual meeting. The meeting will be held in conjunction with the Old Threshers' event and promises to add several exhibitions to the 1991 Reunion.

The gas engine area was down slightly in the number of engines exhibited, but the display area was better organized and the quality of the engines was excellent. A total of 836 gasoline engines were exhibited with 26 Gades featured. Each year, the gas engine area features a manufacturer of engines. The Gade Bros, engines were manufactured in Iowa Falls, Iowa and were produced from 1904 to 1930.

The swap tent was also considered to be a success and present plans call for its continuation next year.

The gas tractor area was also down slightly in the total number of tractors exhibited but, like the gas engine area, the quality of tractors was greatly improved. A total of 304 tractors were shown this year.

With the potential arrival of additional tractors for the 1991 Case Expo, the Association was asked to consider changing its policy restricting tractors to 1939 unstyled or older. After consideration and further discussion with the International J.I. Case Heritage Foundation representatives, it was decided to leave the exhibit restriction as it stands. As a result, all tractors exhibited at the Case Expo will follow the same exhibit restrictions as the tractors at Old Threshers.

The stationary steam Powerhouse put some of the final touches on the Wilke Machine Tool Exhibit. Three years in the making, the exhibit is now powered by a stationary Peerless steam engine. Following the 1990 Reunion, the exhibit will be winterized and the area secured. Plans call for the exhibit to be officially dedicated at the 1991 Old Threshers Reunion.

In addition to the work on the Wilke exhibit, the stationary steam area had a wall constructed separating the boiler room for the Allis-Chalmers engine. The wall is part of a long term plan to develop the stationary area and place the engines in interpretive 'pods' similar to the environments in which the engines would have existed when they were in use in industry.

Despite some mechanical problems, the horse area continued their tradition of excellent demonstrations at the 1990 Reunion. The horse power and tread mill demonstrations always attracted large crowds and gave the Reunion visitors a glimpse of the past. Demonstrations presented this year included: threshing, baling, and corn shelling with power sweeps; powering a sorghum press; plowing in an adjacent field; and organization of the annual horse pull on Labor Day.

The ridership on the Midwest Electric Railway held firm this year with increasing interest in travel to the Log Village on the south end of the trolley loop. Trolley volunteers painted the depot, installed new crowd control railings and lighting fixtures, and prepared and operated the six historic electric trolleys at top efficiency during the five day event.

The new Print Shop in the North Village provided additional space to demonstrate the printing equipment previously used and made it possible to expand the offering to the visitors. The visitor flow through the building was much better than before and the volunteers did an excellent job of greeting the Reunion crowds. The print shop project, like the Wilke Machine Tool Exhibit in Museum A, received funding from the Old Threshers Foundation. The Old Threshers Foundation was established in 1986 to provide a source for funding for capital projects at Midwest Old Threshers. The foundation realized over a 10% increase in its endowment fund in 1990.

The 1991 Old Threshers Reunion scheduled for August 29 through September 2 promises to be another time of good fellowship and a time of remembering 'when steam was king.'