P. O. Box 1144 Newton, North Carolina 28658
Roy Tucker never worries about what he's doing for Father's Day each year. He just loads the camper and heads about 50 miles north of Charlotte, North Carolina, to Windmill Acres Farm and the Early Farm Days celebration.
For the past eight years, Tucker, his wife Betty, and their two sons have spent Father's Day weekend at what is rapidly becoming one of the fastest growing celebrations of its kind in the southeast. This year more than 400 exhibitors were on hand for the three day event.
Early Farm Days at Windmill Acres features more than just engines. It is an extravaganza of gasoline and steam, a turn-of-the-century sawmill, reaping and baling exhibitions, a shingle mill, country store, an old farm house, miniature railroad, thousands of antique farm implements and tools, and daily performances by Sigmon's Belgian Show Horses.
Although the Tuckers spend most of their holiday weekend talking about little hit and miss engines with fellow exhibitors and visitors, 18-year-old Randy Tucker is busy showing younger children what can be done with a 4 HP Witte and a little ingenuity.
Riding a home-built tractor hitched to a flat bed trailer, Randy has been a popular attraction at Windmill Acres since he was 11 years of age when his dad built the little tractor as a father-son project. Hauling youngsters around the 200-acre farm has been a lot of fun for Randy, but he is quick to point out that his time at the annual affair has also been a great learning experience.
'It's just different up there. We go to five or six shows each year and I guess that one is my favorite. They're nicer and you can learn a whole lot,' Randy says of his visits.
That's the kind of educational experience and atmosphere Big Edd and Velma Sigmon were seeking when they first started inviting small engine enthusiasts and other exhibitors to the event eight years ago. Today, it is a weekend of learning and fun for young and old alike.
One of the reasons the show has been so successful has been the variety of exhibits and this year was no exception.
One exhibit getting a lot of attention this year was a home-built well drilling rig belonging to Ralph and Leona Herman of Taylorsville, North Carolina.
Built by Leona's dad, Guy Jolley, in the late 1920's, the unique apparatus was used to drill wells all across the foothills of western North Carolina up until the mid 1940's.
Using a 7?. HP Fairbanks-Morse for power, the rig was constructed from materials that were available at the time. Major components included an old A-Model Ford chassis, a rear axle from an old truck (mechanical brakes and all), an old Typhoon water pump, a truck drive shaft, and a variety of gears, pulleys, gate valves, leather belts, an old tire, steel cable and cotton rope.
The 1? inch drill is mounted on an upright boom constructed of angle iron; a 2? inch steel casing was used to protect the well walls. The boom is about 25 feet long and was laid back across the top of the rig when it was moved from site to site.
Another engine exhibit getting special attention this year was a rare 1899 Crossley 2 HP belonging to Carl Adams of Mooresville, North Carolina. Built in England, the Crossley was considered to be one of the best the Europeans could offer in the way of small engines around the turn of the century.
Some of the other small engines getting plenty of close looks from spectators at the three day affair included:
A 1905 2 HP Emerson-Brantingham belonging to Marvin Tucker of Statesville, North Carolina; a 1900-1902 Olds owned by Lacey Blair of Granite Falls, North Carolina; a 1920 Economy 9 HP engine belonging to Harry Gibson of Statesville, North Carolina; R. S. Hodge's 1926 International. Hodge hails from Belmont, North Carolina; a 1905 Perkins owned by Doug Kelley of Lake Wylie, South Carolina; a 1928 McCormick Deering belonging to Bobby Hall of Charlotte, North Carolina; and a 1915 Economy owned by Bobby Stewart of Dunn, North Carolina.
The 1989 Early Farm Days show was also an excellent opportunity for Doc Denny of Concord, North Carolina to show off his restored 1932 Toro dump truck. Denny's restoration efforts drew praise from exhibitors and visitors alike.
While bartering for engines and parts goes on almost continuously, many of the small engine buffs also take some time out to see some of the other fascinating exhibits at Windmill Acres.
Down in the big barn, visitors and exhibitors watch as farm manager Kim Sigmon, horseman Don Schneckloth, Rose Schneckloth and Michele McMain get the massive Sigmon Belgians ready for their daily performance.
Sigmon's award-winning Belgians participate in about 30 shows and competitions each year. They're also great favorites at parades and other activities.
Visitors to the big barn this year were treated to a video show
presented by Sherri McMain, Linda Grange and Tara McMain of Delmar,
Iowa. The videos featured highlights from the Belgian competitions
at Toronto, Denver and Lexington, Kentucky.
For those who enjoy watching black smoke come from the stacks of old steam engines, there was plenty of that going on also. Down in the lower pasture John Link of Hickory, North Carolina and several helpers put on baling and thrashing exhibitions, while up on the hill by the lake James Sigmon of Harrogate, Tennessee, Greg Deal of Morganton, North Carolina, J.C. Green of Boone, North Carolina, and Paul Mullis showed spectators how to turn huge logs into usable timber at the old sawmill. Saw-milling was one of the toughest jobs around during the early 1900's.
Meanwhile, down in the small pasture behind the old windmill, Robert Starnes delighted the crowd as the chips flew from the old shingle mill. Starnes would later join Big Edd, Eddie and Andy Sigmon in a wheat thrashing, peanut thrashing and rock crushing exhibition.
Hundreds of visitors this year took time to check out the working small engine replicas of J.T. Hanson of Haines City, Florida and J.T. Goforth of Statesville, North Carolina. The two men displayed both steam and gas engines, and the crowd seemed impressed with the intricate work required.
Reggie Stone drew praise and giggles from those who stopped by to look at his invention. Constructed of everything from an old shoe to a commode float and frying pan, Stone's invention was described in the following manner: 'Iran's new high tech, top secret battleship engine. Stolen and smuggled into this country by R.H. Stone and Associates.'
As usual at Windmill Acres there was something for everyone. Some folks, like Tommy Jones and his grandson Neal of Cherryville, North Caroalina, tried their luck at fishing, while two little girls, Ashley Hall of Richmond, Virginia and Mandy Hall of Charlotte, North Carolina, enjoyed throwing stones into the lake and watching the ripples. Still others found a tour of the old farmhouse and Velma's Country Store fascinating.
You could see it in the faces of visitors and exhibitors alike as they prepared to leave Windmill Acres Sunday afternoon. There were pleasant smiles as they remembered the pit-cooked barbeque and country music from the night before, but there was also a look of sadness on the faces of others who realized the weekend was coming to a close and it would be another year before they would be back.
Early Farm Days 1989 was also a bittersweet time for the Sigmon family. Andrew Sigmon, Big Edd's father, passed away about two weeks before this year's show and his memory was very much a part of the weekend.
'He's the one who taught all of us how to love, respect and maintain machinery,' Big Edd said as he remembered his dad on Father's Day.