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The past comes to life at Threshers Reunion near Rockford

  • Joe Koehler, 12, drives a green John Deere tractor during a tractor pull at the Cedar Valley Engine Club’s 52nd Threshers Reunion in this 2017 file photo. Press file photo

  • A thresher more than a century old and owned by Steve Montag of the Cedar Valley Engine Club is operated at the 52nd Threshers Reunion in 2017. Press file photo

  • The Cedar Valley Engine Club Threshers Reunion usually brings in about 1,500 people to display and experience antique farm equipment and enjoy a fair-like atmosphere. Press file photo

By Kelly Terpstra,

There’s a key to unlock the memories and traditions of yesteryear.

That link to the past rests along Highway 14 between Charles City and Rockford this Labor Day Weekend.

The 53rd Annual Threshers Reunion hosted by the Cedar Valley Engine Club kicks off on Saturday and will feature all kinds of vintage and historic tractors on display.

There’s also so much more than that, as the show will feature a swap meet and flea market and music at the bandshell. They’ll also be plenty of presentations and tours that hearken back to a time filled with wonderment and amazement.

“It is one of the best–kept secrets in northeast Iowa,” said Mary Koenigsfeld, a member of the Cedar Valley Engine Club.

Koenigsfeld said that people from as many as 19 states and four countries have attended this annual show. She also said as many as 2,000 people have attended the three-day show in one year and it keeps getting bigger every year.

The chance to step foot in an old one-room schoolhouse, learn about steam engines or how saw mills operate are the kind of experiences one can encounter at the reunion.

“It is walking back into the past. If we lose touch with the past, there is nothing that is going to be around to show our youth,” said Koenigsfeld.

Hart-Parr Tractor Co., which later became Oliver Farm Equipment Co., will have plenty of its tractors on the showgrounds for all to see. Hart–Parr coined the term “tractor” in 1901 and a year later produced the world’s first successful internal combustion traction engine.

Dean Tjaden will take people on a virtual tour of the history of Hart–Parr/Oliver.

In addition to the relics from long ago, demonstrations of threshing, corn shelling and wool spinning will be taking place. A blacksmith practicing his craft will also be a fun and knowledgeable way to see metal getting forged.

“That guy is amazing,” said Koenigsfeld.

Danny Steiber, aka “The Barn Quilt Guy,” just after noon on Saturday will teach people about the history of barn quilts and the underground railroad that went through Iowa in the 1800s. Iowa author Linda McCann will share her book, “The Civilian Conservation Corps in Northeast Iowa,” on Sunday.

The Ulster No. 3 country schoolhouse, which closed in 1956, can be toured all three days and is one of the more popular exhibits. The school was relocated to the club grounds in December 1993 and opened to the public two years later.

Doris Montag, a freelance curator of historical displays, will present her collection of early schoolhouse artifacts. They’ll also be a tribute to Arlene (Kielsmeier) Carney, who taught at Ulster No. 3 and greeted visitors at the reunion for many years. She died earlier this year.

Also don’t miss the “barn talks,” which are held at the south end of the grounds in the lower part of the barn.

Don’t forget to experience what it’s like to shop at a 1940s country store when you enter the Roseville General Store, which was once owned by Koenigsfeld’s husband’s grandparents. The store was moved over to the location of the reunion grounds in 2009. Koenigsfeld said it has been restored to as much as the original store as possible.

A truck and tractor pull gets underway at 11 a.m. on Saturday. There is also a kids pedal tractor pull, Daily Parade of Power and plowing demonstration. People can also worship at the Sunday church service at 9 a.m.