425 Shuford Circle Drive Newton, N.C. 28658
Antique engine buffs who attend shows regularly know that there are enough of them around to keep a yesteryear enthusiast on the go the year round. One particular show we've visited in the past two years can be called unique, because it is one of a kind. It is a show of engines and other farm machinery, and of a herd of more than thirty beautiful blond Belgian horses.
This unique showing of horsepower and horse flesh comes alive each mid-June on a fascinating Belgian horse farm called Windmill Acres, operated by Edd and Velma Sigmon near Newton, North Carolina, an hour's drive south of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Grandfather Mountain. The Sigmons breed and work a magnificent herd of Belgian horses the year around, and give the proud and powerful but gentle horses opportunities to perform in fairs, parades, and other events throughout the eastern United States.
Big Edd, as he's affectionately called by his many friends, appears to be as interested in old engines and other farm machinery as he is in horses, and has put together a collection of alluring items that many collectors regard as outstanding.
Edd has gas engines that range in size from Maytags to large Internationals; steam engines that range from scale models to a 200-horsepower Corliss; an assortment of gasoline tractors; a fleet of steam traction engines, including the only existing operating four-wheel drive model (Lansing), plus the last steam engine to come out of the famous Frick Company plant. In addition to machines in sheds, there is a whole field full of early types of horsedrawn reapers, corn cutters, plows, cultivators, balers, threshers, and a full-size operating saw mill powered by an 85-horsepower portable steam engine. (That's the only place we've ever seen a trailer-load of logs being hauled to a saw mill behind a Cadillac!)
With all of this, Big Edd could mount an outstanding show all by himself. But, as we found, the wideranging intellect and generous spirit of this man impell him to open his 'home' to other exhibitors, who bring in at least another three hundred engines and other machines from their homes in both Carolinas, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Texas, Georgia and Florida.
Just the machinery alone at this show constitutes one of the most fascinating shows this writer has visited over a period of several years, but in addition, the whole operation is grandly enhanced by the presence and performances of those beautiful large horses. The stables are housed in a large, airy and completely modern barn. Visitors to the stables are warmly greeted by the individual horses as they pass their stalls. And there are always at least a few horses and foals in the barnyard and pastures. The stable barn also houses a collection of some of the finest horsedrawn vehicles we've seen, ranging in size from one-horse buggies and sleighs to parade wagons drawn by six-horse hitches.
Beside the horse barn there's an operating blacksmith shop, plus a fully equipped harness shop. This substantial equestrian empire is competently managed by men and women highly skilled in all the crafts related to the nurturing of fine horses.
During this two-day show known as Annual Early Farm Days, performances by horses are the most popular attractions. Also, horse-drawn wagons make regular trips around all of Windmill Acres all day long, hauling delighted visitors of all ages.
Kids find many joys at Windmill Acres. They watch the hundreds of engines in operation, including the big saw mill and the shingle mill. They also find animals and birds smaller than horses to pet or just look at. There are organized games and contests, and a large fishing pond. We observed that while a horse was being shod at the blacksmith shop at least half of the fascinated onlookers were kids, most of whom had never seen a horse fitted for new shoes.
To us who have visited numerous similar events, one of the most interesting aspects of Edd's and Velma's two-day show is the fact that these two generous people, with some paid and volunteer help, get their own properties in order for the show. They then turn over the crowd handling to local Jaycees who manage gates and parking, sell tickets and do many of the chores related to running a busy show. The Jaycees keep all of the gate fees to use in conducting their charitable programs in the community.
Also, we noticed the absence of vendors hawking souvenirs and trinkets and junk food, and the grounds weren't littered with discarded packages. In addition to drinking fountains, there were unobtrusive stands where young people of a nearby church sold cotton candy, ice cream cones and soft drinks. They too get to keep all the money they take in.
The numerous surprising things we saw at this show included an enormous and spectacular polished brass electric chandelier suspended above the main entrance area of the horse barn. The Sigmons explained the chandelier illuminated the May 31st wedding of their son, John to Kimberly Harvey, the principal staff horsewoman and six-horse hitch driver. A wedding party under that chandelier and surrounded by beautiful wagons, parade harnesses and a large showcase full of award ribbons just had to be another something on this horse farm that could be called unique.
The next Early Farm Days at Windmill Acres will be the 6th annual, on June 13 and 14, 1987. Big Edd and Velma say they are planning to make it even more interesting by adding some innovative characteristics that will continue to make it an extraordinary mix of horse flesh and horsepower. (In one conversation, plans for hot air balloons and precision parachute jumps were implied.)
Edd and Velma welcome visitors to Windmill Acres the year around. It is located on U.S. 321, a mile south of Newton, North Carolina. For more information, write to them, or phone 704/465-2232.