Gas Engine Magazine

1989 Old Threshers Reunion Celebrates Forty Years

By Staff

405 Broadway #5, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa 52641

The 1989 Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa will go
down in history as one of the best ever. Celebrating 40 years of
remembering the days of ‘steam and glory,” the folks
in Mt. Pleasant ‘put on’ a reunion that will not soon be

Despite a little too much ‘dust ‘ control’ (over an
inch of rain) the first day, the event was recorded as having the
third largest attendance in the history of the organization.

According to the Reunion’s organizers, the Old Threshers
Association sold 60,433 memberships, a 5.66 percent increase over
1988. Based on the multiple use of the memberships for more than
one day of the Reunion, the estimated total attendance for the five
day celebration of yesteryear was 135,974. Wow!

Still showing growth and improvements after 40 years, the Old
Threshers Reunion shone like its 40 year color of ruby red in the
southeast Iowa countryside. Beginning in 1950 with a showing of 15
steam traction engines and 8 separators, the event has grown into
the largest historical show of its type celebrating our
agricultural heritage. Again, in 1989, there were over 100
operating steam engines on display as well as nearly 900 gasoline
engines and over 300 antique tractors.

Music of all kinds filled the air during the 1989 Reunion.
(Besides the stack music, of course!) Throughout the grounds a
tradition of music from homespun bluegrass and popular country to
the old-time folk and gospel music could be heard. The ‘big
name’ entertainment included Lee Greenwood, Ray Stevens, Louise
Mandrell and Eddie Rabbitt.

Another rich tradition in our agricultural past which was again
faithfully reproduced at the 40th Annual Old Threshers Reunion was
food. Oh, my! The food!

Over 22 food groups, made up of church and civic organizations
and clubs located within a 25 mile radius of Mt. Pleasant, did a
fantastic job in feeding the multitudes of hungry Reunion visitors.
Starvation was certainly not a concern at all during the event.

Craft demonstrations have also been a long time attraction at
the Old Threshers Reunion. Over 100 crafts people from 15 states
journeyed to the 40th Reunion to demonstrate their old-time skills
and talents. The wide variety of craft demonstrations represented
skills used prior to 1934. A building full of antiques for sale
also provided hours of browsing for the many ‘treasure
hunters’ who wandered the Reunion grounds looking for just the
right souvenir or gift item.

The Wilke Machine Tool Exhibit was again a popular attraction.
This three year project, scheduled for completion in 1990, will be
a working display of trained machinists demonstrating the repair of
automobile engines. Visitors in 1990 will be able to view the
machine shop through windows, and there will be additional
interpretive illustrations and graphics. Power for the exhibit will
ultimately come from a stationary steam engine. The steam engine
will turn assorted belts and line shafts that should provide a most
interesting and ‘moving’ display.

Another highlight was the new sawn-log barn down in the Log
Village. For those who haven’t been at this most unique part of
Old Threshers, the Log Village is a settlement located at the
southern end of the large campground. It consists of four log
structures, including the new barn, a school house, log house/inn,
and general mercantile store. Hosted by Explorer Scout Post 1846,
the village depicts the daily struggles and good times of early
Americans who first broke the plains.

There were too many things going on during the Reunion for one
person to see in one day. I haven’t mentioned the beautifully
restored antique cars and trucks, the really neat electric
trolleys, and all the goin’s on in the North Village. There is
so much to see and do at this event!

Of course the main attraction at the five day festival that
ended on Labor Day is the steam engines. Steam engines from the
mighty locomotives to the smallest of models still take the
spotlight at the Old Threshers Reunion. Because of the forethought
of a few individuals in 1949, an event begun in 1950 is now a part
of history itself as the largest steam show around.

The Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant brings together people
who find enduring friendships and camaraderie that lasts a
lifetime. Its growth and prosperity is a testimony to what people
can do if and when they set their minds to it. Amazingly, the 40
year history of this event has been consistent in its original
purpose. Commercialism has not polluted its success. From the looks
of its 40th year it will continue to be successful. On August 30
through September 3, 1990 those iron machines will again come alive
in Mt Pleasant. This annual Reunion is one you can always come home

  • Published on May 1, 1990
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