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Friday, 22 August 2014 00:00

Rock River Thresheree Reunion in Edgerton turns back the clock on agriculture

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Rock River Thresheree Reunion in Edgerton turns back the clock on agriculture Terry Mayer/file

EDGERTON -- Charlie Hendrickson has been working with steam engines and other antique farm equipment for most of his life.

Hendrickson owns a full-sized steam engine and a small steam engine that was manufactured by Walter Durst, founder in 1963 of the Durst Corp. Hendrickson displays his engines at several steam shows throughout the year, including the 2014 Rock River Thresheree Reunion.

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Monday, Aug. 29 through Sept. 1, 2014

Where: Thresheree Park, 51 E. Cox Road in rural Edgerton

Cost: $8, and children 12 years and younger are free. Aug. 29 is senior day, and senior citizens may attend for $6.


"When (Durst) passed away, he gave (the steam engine) to me," Hendrickson said. "I still take it with me to steam shows. I recently took it to a show in Iowa that’s similar to ours. It was the show’s 50th anniversary, and they asked me to bring it."

Hendrickson said he has been involved with the thresheree for at least 40 years.

"I’m 51 years old, and I’ve been active with it since I was 9 or 10," Hendrickson said. "I grew up working with one of the founders of the thresheree. He took me under his wing. He showed me how to fix the parts of the steam engines, and I was hooked. That’s how I got started."

Hendrickson lives on the grounds of Thresheree Park and helps maintain its building and property.

"I’m out there throughout the year," Hendrickson said. "I’m a machinist by trade. I restore a lot of the equipment. They don’t make parts for this type of equipment anymore, so if you need something you have to make it. It’s a challenge."

Hendrickson said a lot of work goes into maintaining the grounds during the week leading up to the thresheree.

"There’s a huge list of things to do, about two pages worth, from the small things to take care of to the big things to take care of," Hendrickson said. "Whether you’re ready or not, people are going to come."

Todd Ligman, president of Rock River Thresheree Inc., has been involved with the event since 1986. He also is involved with maintaining the equipment.

"I’ve worked on a lot of the equipment that’s out there," Ligman said. "Over the years I’ve been on the grounds, there’s a lot of repair and maintenance that needs to be done, so we’re constantly doing repairs on the older stuff. When equipment gets that old, it always needs to be repaired."

Ligman owns a steam engine that he purchased about three years ago. He said he has been interested in antique steam engines since his childhood.

"I’ve been a mechanical guy my whole life, so it came natural for me to fall into it," Ligman said. "My dad used to take me to the thresheree when I was a kid. He actually set up at the flea market as a vendor."

This year’s thresheree will feature antique steam engines, tractors, construction equipment, military equipment and plows, as well as blacksmith demonstrations and corn, buckwheat and shingle mills. There will be a Parade of Power, featuring antique tractors and farm vehicles, at 2 p.m. each day. The event also will include a flea market with more than 300 vendors.

"There’s vendors that come from all over the U.S. and bring their equipment in for display, and the flea market has a lot of old, collectible stuff, too," Ligman said. "There’s a gamut of stuff. You’ve got craft items, a lot of antiques. There’s a ton of different things in the flea market, just about anything you would want. That’s always been a big draw out there. The guys go look at the tractors and the ladies go to the flea market. A lot of guys go to the flea market, too. There’s tools and all kinds of stuff."

The thresheree also will feature a variety of food vendors.

"There’s a lot of food to eat," Ligman said. "We’ve got some of the usual vendors that have been out there for 20-plus years. We’ve got a corn boil. St. John Vianney Church is a big attraction with their food stand."

Ligman said about 20,000 people attend the thresheree each year. He said the thresheree includes activities for both children and adults.

"There's something for everybody to do," Ligman said. 'There's kids activities. There's a peddle tractor pull and rides. There's a corn box, and (children) can jump around in that. There's a barrel train they can ride on. They can make their own rope. There's pony rides. I think it's an annual thing for a lot of people. There's a lot of neat stuff to see. We hear comments from people that they can't believe that people use to use this stuff and there was so much hard work back then. It makes people realize how easy we have it nowadays."

Hendrickson said the thresheree gives people a glimpse of what early farm life was like in the Midwest.

"We're like a working museum. We're preserving a way of life that was a part of the Midwest," Hendrickson said. "The Midwest is the breadbasket of America, and we're preserving its history."

Hendrickson said the thresheree also gives steam engine enthusiast an opportunity to interact with each other.

"I enjoy the camaderie. I've made a lot of friends over the years. It's like a family," Hendrickson said. "It's becoming a vanishing tradition. A lot of people who worked with this equipment are long gone. It's been passed down to us."

Ligman said it's becoming more expensive for younger people to become involved with collecting antique equipment.

"There's definitely a group of people out there that are really into it," Ligman said. "Unfortunately, nowadays, I think it's getting harder for younger people to get involved because the equipment is increasing in value so much that it's getting more expensive for younger people to afford it. Some of these rare tractors are just brining in astronomical money. It's not like 30 or 40 years ago. You could get into the hobby fairly cheap. You can still find small tractors very reasonable at $500 to $1,000."

Rock River Thresheree, Inc. works on the event throughout the year. Plans are already being made for next year's thresheree.

"We have meetings every month throughout the year. We plan different things. All the money we generate is poured into any updates or parts or buildings or roads or equipment," Ligman said. "We're always looking for new members. We're open to anyone who has an interest in agricultural and industrial equipment."

The cost to attend the Rock River Thresheree is $8, and children 12  years and younger are free. Aug. 29 is senior day, and senior citizens may attend for $6. For more information about the Rock River Thresheree, go to

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