Threshers reunite in New RockfordThe 52nd annual Central Dakota Steam Threshers Reunion is all about nostalgia. But don’t look for this to be a gathering or reunion of men who operated the big steam engines to thresh the grain back in the day when horses and steam were the only power of agriculture.
By: Keith Norman, Jamestown (N.D.) Sun
NEW ROCKFORD, N.D. — The 52nd annual Central Dakota Steam Threshers Reunion is all about nostalgia. But don’t look for this to be a gathering or reunion of men who operated the big steam engines to thresh the grain back in the day when horses and steam were the only power of agriculture.
“Most of these steam engines are close to 100 years old,” said Peter Mandt of Wahpeton. “There is not going to be a lot of original operators left.”
However, that is how the event got started, according to Dale Nystrom, a member of the board of directors and the announcer at the event.
“About the mid-1940s there was the conversion from threshing to combining,” he said. “It coincided with the end of World War II when the manufacturers could start building new equipment and there was a shortage of laborers to work in the fields.”
Ten to 15 years later a few farmers got together in 1958 to reminisce and show how things use to be done and the first steam threshers reunion was held.
Even by the end of the threshing era much of the power to operate the threshing machines was provided by tractors rather than steam engines.
“Most of them got sold for scrap during World War II,” Mandt said. “Ended up recycled for the war effort.”
That made the location, restoration and operation of a steam engine a difficult and costly process.
“To get one of these running is about a five-year project,” said Kory Anderson of Aberdeen, S.D., who was operating a steam engine owned by Mark Pederson of Luverne. “If you stay ahead with the oil and grease you generally don’t have much trouble but if something breaks you have to have the part cast and machined. There’s no spare parts for these machines.”
“These engines are a major investment,” he said. “They’re expensive to buy and if the boiler needs repair it gets really expensive because they have to be certified by the state.”
But for the men who operate the steam engines, and the thousands of people who attend, it all seems worth it.
“Nostalgia is the big thing,” Nystrom said. “The people want to experience how it was done in the past. With more people attending all the time it is attracting the generations that didn’t live this kind of life too.”
The Central Dakota Steam Threshers Reunion runs through Sunday just southwest of New Rockford. Admission for a single day is $6 for adults and $4 for students age 13 to 17. All weekend passes are $15 for adults and $6 for students age 13 to 17. Children 12 and under are admitted free.
Daily events include a flea market, threshing demonstrations, a parade of engines and a sawmill demonstration.
A frontier village including a church, post office, blacksmith shop are also included on the grounds.
The Jamestown Sun and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.