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 surrounding it.
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 Saturday morning.
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 performed flawlessly.
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.