Three Weeks, Three Shows

Portland, Indiana Mt. Pleasant, Iowa Ottawa, Kansas

| November/December 2001

Ted Brookover, Kansas City, Mo., applies pinstriping to Jim French's Tillinghast at the Portland show.

Three weeks, three shows. No, I don't say that because it's particularly impressive, it's just the way things worked out. What's more interesting is that the shows ended up, not due to any planning, following a progression, from largest to smallest, and in the process giving an interesting perspective of just what you get as you step from one level of show, size-wise, to the next. A lot of folks might think in terms of the bigger the better, but while the big shows are great, that doesn't mean the smaller shows are any less enjoyable.

Portland, Indiana - 36th Annual Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Show

The first in the line of three was the 36th Annual Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Show, held August 22-26 at the Jay County Fairgrounds in Portland, Ind. This is not your average show - not hardly - and if you've never been, it's almost hard to describe this show simply because of its sheer size. There are more engines, tractors and sale items assembled together at this show than any other. Period.

And it's not just the volume of equipment that's impressive: it's the number of people (estimated at about 75,000 by Al Confer, president of the Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Association, down a bit from last year due to heavy rain on Wednesday) and the fact that this show, more than probably any other in the U.S., is fast becoming an international event. During the course of a few days, I met engine enthusiasts who had flown in from Japan, Australia and England, and who had driven down from Canada.

Nameplate of Tommy and Isaiah Turner's 8 HP IHC, built prior to 1905 and believed to be the oldest IHC engine extant.

For them, this was the seminal event of the year, a chance to get together with people in the old iron hobby they'd been emailing for the past year, a chance to enjoy some shared community and see more engines in one place than can be experienced anywhere.