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Archive for Saturday, August 3, 1991

STEAM POWERS MCLOUTH FESTIVAL

August 3, 1991

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Pulling off a tarp, Doug "Clutch" McQuitty unveils one of his most prized possessions, an 80-year-old hand-made model of a steam-powered tractor and threshing machine.

"It was a model built in 1911 by Cliff Steffey, of Nortonville, Kansas," says McQuitty, who tells onlookers the model actually works.

McQuitty's model is one of about 200 exhibits being displayed this weekend at McLouth's 34th Annual Steam Engine Show and Threshing Bee.

Between 10,000 and 20,000 people were expected to view antique steam-powered farm equipment, watch threshing demonstrations and listen to country music bands at the show, which began Friday night and runs through Sunday night.

Ralph Bailey, president of The Heart of America Antique Steam Engine and Model Assn. Inc., which runs the show, said Friday afternoon that the activity at the show was slow because of Friday's 100-plus degree heat.

But he thinks crowds will grow. ``We've got a pretty good entertainment package, so I think we'll have 20,000. I really do," he said.

Tonight's entertainment will feature the Honey Creek Band, which will perform from 8 p.m. to midnight. Highlighting today's events is an antique tractor pull at 3:30 p.m.

Sunday's events include a country dancing exhibition by the Heart of America Country-Western Dancers, which will be at 2:30 p.m., a Mini Hot Rod Pull, at 4 p.m., and a draft horse pull at 8 p.m.

THIS YEAR'S show features traditional steam engines, gasoline tractors, antique cars and trucks and antique aircraft.

Visitors also can enjoy a flea market, a blacksmith shop, and see demonstrations of rock crushing and straw baling.

The annual event was started in 1957 by Herman "Slim" Watson and his wife, Myrta, who lived on a farm near McLouth.

McQuitty, who is past president and director at large of the event, said exhibitors from all parts of Kansas and Missouri will bring tractors, stationary gasoline engines, model steam engines.

"These are all just private collections of people who collect gas engines and tractors and anything that's related to the farm industry," he said. "We've had some 1908 up to present day equipment on loan from implement dealers."

He said most people come out for the nostalgia of the old equipment, for the music "and just a family reunion, in a sense."

HE SAID the massive steam engines powered belt drives to run threshing machines. After wheat or oats were cut, they were put in a bundle to dry. Then they were loaded high onto wagons and brought by horses to the threshing machine. The crops were fed into the thresher, where a spinning cylinder knocked the grain off the wheat shafts.

McQuitty, 57, who grew up on a farm in Minnesota said he remembers using threshing machines and old steam engines. He said most of the steam engines were replaced by the smaller internal combustion engines in the early 1920s.

"A lot of city people come out to show their children the kind of machinery that was used years ago to make the oatmeal and the loaf of bread," he said.

He said when he was growing up, challenges were made at Sunday picnics and other gatherings about who had the most powerful tractors. Today, there will be proof of the most powerful during the antique tractor pull.

"There was always a verbal challenge," he said. "Now we'll be able to prove it."

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