200 South Spruce Street Centerville, Indiana 47330
Several of us old engine nuts here in Wayne County, Indiana felt
a need for a local engine show which would give us a chance to
exhibit our equipment without having to travel a long distance. We
decided to approach the county fair board responsible for the
week-long 4H fair at the Wayne County Fairgrounds. This
organization moves slowly. We made our first contact in October of
1982 through the county extension office. In January we were
invited to meet with the board at its regular meeting. Eddie Hall
and I met with the board and brought pictures of various pieces of
old equipment to illustrate what we proposed to show. We met with a
good reception. During this brief meeting we offered to furnish the
equipment and operators, all transportation and fuel in exchange
for publicity and a tent to cover the exhibit area. We felt the
fair would realize improved attendance from such an exhibit. The
board took our proposition under advisement and didn’t give us
an O.K. until May 1983.
We spent several months working on engines and other machines.
We wanted to display equipment in actual operation, not sitting
silent. We wanted the engines to drive typical machines doing the
actual work they had done years ago. We supplied the fair board
with black and white pictures of equipment for use in publicity for
the engine show, but we found publicity was sorely lacking. Our
pictures were run in the local weekly paper but not in the daily.
No mention was made of the exhibit in the fair program or in any
newspaper announcements of the fair.
Nevertheless, we went ahead full steam. Our exhibit included 4
old tractors, about 18 gas engines, water pumps, silage choppers, a
burr mill, corn shellers, an Ottawa drag saw and various pieces of
hand – operated equipment including an ear corn chopper, hand
shellers, hand pumps and so on. We filled our tent the area
Those participating in this first show were Charlie and Eddie
Hall of Milton, Indiana, Greg Jones and Tom Kelsey of Cambridge
City, Charles and Michael Bond and Herman Cull of Richmond and Jim
Jones and sons James and Tim of Centerville. Our exhibit ran for 7
days and a rough count indicates we may have been responsible for
drawing some 2,000 people to our show. We hauled equipment in on
Friday, July 29 and were in operation that evening. We ran all day
Saturday, Sunday evening and then evenings only the following week.
We started moving out on the following Friday evening and finished
We learned the fair board was elated over the exhibit. Local
implement dealers located nearby had few interested observers they
were all at the engine show. The lack of publicity didn’t help,
but word of mouth was responsible for drawing the crowds. A large
number wanted to see the Halls’ Ottawa drag saw and it
In September, the Wayne County Agricultural Society did a one
day show at the Canal Days festival in Cambridge City, Indiana.
Most of the same exhibitors were on hand. This was a first time
event at this festival also and it drew a good crowd. Again,
publicity in advance was nil but the sound of old one lunger
engines and John Deere tractors seemed to attract the people.
We plan to show again this year at the county fair. We requested
several changes from last year. We need a larger tent. We also
asked the fair board to give us additional publicity and make
better use of our presence as a crowd drawing event to boost
attendance at the fair. We don’t seek fame for ourselves, but
fair attendance has been down and we feel we can contribute toward
improving this situation. Our biggest problem was the continual
hassle at the gate. We bore exhibitor passes on our vehicles but
admission collectors were unable to understand that those in the
trucks with the drivers were part of the show. Hopefully, that
situation will be corrected.
Since the fair board has no funds to provide transportation for
large machines, we do not expect any steam equipment, threshing
machines or sawmills to be on exhibit. We purposely limited the
number of exhibitors the first year in order to get our feet wet
and see what would happen. There were no badges or plaques given
out. 1984 will probably see a few additional machines and maybe
another exhibitor or two but it will still be a small show,
basically a part of the Wayne County 4H Fair.
In summary, we would suggest those engine collectors who want to
exhibit old machines on a local basis consider working out an
arrangement with their county fair. There will be a crowd of mainly
farm oriented people who either will not know what you are doing,
(as many of the younger ones won’t), or who will exclaim with
pleasure at seeing the old machines they have fond memories of in
operation. It is a worthwhile effort and we feel our participation
helped all of us. We exchanged ideas and stories, called on one
another for help with balky engines and helped solve each
other’s problems. We certainly appreciated Herman Cull’s
presence, with his many years of engine experience. He was seen by
several getting a balky engine to start by merely laying his hands
on the cylinder. Don’t know what he did, but the old monster
started on the next pull and ran the rest of the evening!
The Wayne County Agricultural Society takes its name from the
fact that many years ago county fairs were sponsored by a county
agricultural society made up of prominent farmers and stock raisers
in the area, who used the fair to exhibit prize winning livestock
and crops. These societies have all but disappeared, but the name
has historical significance.