Field Day of the Past

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P.O. Box 375, Oilville, Virginia 23129

The engines were reved up and running full tilt. The sound on the track where the tractors are lined up, waiting their turns to pull, mingled with the noise from the center of the field. There a constant putt-putt hummed as visitors strolled by taking in the sights.

Occasionally the deep sounds of the steam whistle announced to the crowd the sawmill was sawing boards. The noise from the shingle mill added to the din. All these sounds commingled with the smells and sights that proclaimed another Field Day of the Past.

In October more than 12,000 visitors and guests converged on the rolling hills near Centerville in Goochland County, Virginia where the third annual Field Day of the Past was being held. Each year this event, sponsored by the Rockville-Centerville Steam & Gas Historical Association, recreates eras from America's past. Antique tractors, trucks, cars, and construction equipment line the field to present an image of the American workplace since the Industrial Revolution.

In three years the scope of Field Day of the Past has grown to encompass many phases of American and Virginia history. The first show in 1992 brought together steam and gas engine enthusiasts, allowing them to display their antique engines.

By 1994 the show had grown considerably. Last year the event conjured up images of the 'old timey' county fairs. More than 200 exhibitors from across Virginia and from as far away as Florida came together. Exhibits included a 1928 Hercules gas engine, a 1913 William's grist mill, a lime spreader, a 1920s Hocking Valley ensilage cutter, and Ottawa log saw, toy steam engines and antique sewing machines. A dog powered farm treadmill, butter churns and butter making accessories, feed grinder, corn shellers and sundry other pieces of equipment were also part of the show.

The annual antique tractor pull is still the primary drawing card for Field Day and the tractor and small engine exhibits still hold their places of honor on the field. But other attractions are growing in popularity. The sawmill is powered by a steam engine built in the 1940s. The sawmill hands lend an authentic air to the operation. Many of them remember what it was like to earn a living working at the millthey used to do this for a living.

The Mule Pull, a new event in 1994, recalled the times when mules were an integral part of farming life.

Near the creek, under the overhanging oak limbs, an antique washer used in the days of goldmining in Goochland County, Virginia is a silent monument to the lure of gold.

A sorghum mill and the shingle mill, antique rock crushers, hay balers and road machines underline the fact that earning a living used to entail a hard day's labor.

Indian camps, Scottish Highlanders, fur trappers and pioneers, biplanes and other antique aircraft, and old fire equipment took visitors back to the past. The Buckingham Lining Bar Gang illustrated the place blacks once were held as railroad workers.

'Field Day is not just a show,' Association president Joseph R. Liesfeld, Jr. explained. 'It's the memory of who we are and where we have been. We want to represent history the way it was and emphasize that everyone had a part in making it.'

The concept seems to be working. Wide eyed kids sucking sorghum cane are led around by parents who stop and point. Old timers gather to relive the spent days of their youth. And everyone goes home waiting for next year's show.

The 4th annual Field Day of the Past is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, October 21, and 22, 1995 in Centerville. For more information call (804) 784-4195.