Learning the ropes

Learning the ropes: Local kids make rope at last year's Wilson County Old Iron Days in Fredonia, Kan.

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Editor, rbackus@ogdenpubs.com

Introducing a new generation to the hobby is a matter of great interest to the old-iron community. It's a subject that comes up regularly on theĀ  Smok Stak Internet bulletin board (read the discussion on page 13), and from what I'm hearing it's being addressed more and more at the local show level.

Since it formed in 1999, the Wilson County Old Iron Club in Fredonia, Kan., has been working with local school districts by inviting kids for a special Friday exposition at its annual Wilson County Old Iron Days. Last year, 800 kids toured the show, learning about everything from shelling corn to how old engines work. It's history in motion, and the payoff extends beyond the lessons learned by the students. In the case of the Wilson County Old Iron Club, pulling in students has also pulled in new members. The club had 25 members at its founding in 1999, but thanks to its active campaign to involve local school children the club's roster has grown to over 100 in five short years.

By joining the club and becoming a part of bringing history alive, local old-iron fans have recognized the opportunity to involve themselves in a constructive, instructional role with their younger citizens. 'I'm not sure who has more fun, the students or the old men in the club,' club president Byron Githens says.

The enthusiasm is clearly infectious, and this year the special exposition has been expanded to two days. Githens says the local schools are thrilled with the show, and as many as 1,200 students are expected to make the rounds Sept. 23-24, 2004, as the show moves to bigger digs at the Wilson County Fairgrounds.

The Wilson County Old Iron Club is just one example, of course, as shows around the country are taking note of their unique opportunity to be a part of their local community. It's a win-win situation for everyone, and our hat's are off to all of you who work to bring the next generation into the old-iron collective. To learn more about the Wilson County Old Iron Days, contact Byron Githens at (620) 378-3307; lgithens@fredoniaks.com