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
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
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
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
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
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.’