Although agricultural technology continues to evolve as it has over the last century, there is a dedicated group of individuals who strive to preserve the machines that made it possible to survive as a farmer 100 years ago.

The machines of old were on display for all to see during the annual Threshing Bee and Antique Equipment Show, held on the grounds of Anderson Hay and Grain over the weekend. Approximately 45 antique tractors were on display, along with a plethora of antique engines and other machines that made farming possible in the days of old. It is estimated that approximately 500 people attended the two-day event.

The namesake machine and center of the event was the antique John Deere thresher. It was purchased by Ellensburg farmer Hank Stokes in 1937 and used in the field until the 1960s. The Kittitas Valley Early Iron Club, who sponsors the event acquired the machine in 2001.

The event is in its second year at Anderson, previously being held at Olmstead State Park. Various community businesses and organizations were on hand to support the club, with the local Kiwanis Club sponsoring breakfast on both days of the event and a donated ice cream station from Winegars. Local businesses donated items available in a raffle held to benefit the club, which operates as a nonprofit organization.

CLUB ROOTS

The club has been in operation since 1985 and has held some sort of an annual event for almost every year since. Club Treasurer Rob Jordan said although there are more members spread across the state, the group is comprised of approximately 15 active core members who live in the Kittitas Valley area. The group meets regularly to plan out the annual event and maintain equipment owned by them. Jordan said that a large emphasis of both the club and the event is to pass on their knowledge and interest in preserving history to the next generation, and that they see success in that area locally.

“We’ve got some young and energetic people,” he said. “I was young when I joined, and I’m getting white whiskers.”

As many parents bring their children along in tow to the event each year, Jordan said he tends to see the kids gravitating towards the tractor parade and wagon rides each day.

“It’s simple, but they love it,” he said.

Without the participation and contributions from local businesses for the event, Jordan said it would be impossible for the event to be successful.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “We’re so appreciative.”

A power plant operator by trade, Jordan said the passion to tinker with old machines tends to be infectious. Beyond the tinkering, being able to show off and explain the machines to the younger generation so they can gain a hands-on understanding of mechanics is what keeps Jordan coming back.

“That’s exciting,” he said. “It’s just not on your darn phone, it’s real and the kids are figuring out. That blows me away.”

TRAVELLING DISTANCES

Mark Wiggins brought his collection of antique engines up from Hermiston, Oregon for the event this year. It is his second year at the event, which is part of a circuit he travels throughout the region.

“All summer long,” he said. “Every two weeks we’ll go somewhere.”

Wiggins began his passion about 10 years ago with an Ottawa drag saw. At first it didn’t look like much, but the quest to find parts to get it running intrigued him.

“It was just old and cool,” he said. “Sometimes when you get them, they are just a big ball of rust.”

The history of the machines is also special for Wiggins. Having grown up on a dairy, he knows firsthand about the need for agricultural equipment.

“The farmer would get one engine to do many tasks before they had electric,” he said. “You could pump water, saw wood. One engine could do a lot of things.”

The engines Wiggins brings to the shows weigh between 250 and 1,400 pounds, all of which he loads on a flatbed trailer to transport. As he travels the circuit with his engines, he said many of the same people travel alongside him to the various events. This creates a sense of community, with exhibitors helping each other with things like parts and whatever it takes to keep the antique machines running.

“A lot of good friends,” he said.

LOCAL CONNECTION

Yakima-area resident Calvin Cook brought up a collection of nine tractors to the event for the first time this year. One standout was a restored 1950s Farmall tractor painted in breast cancer pink in memory of a friend of his mothers. Cook said he got into restoring farm equipment from his uncle, who has had the passion for longer than he can remember.

“It’s kind of like a disease, I guess you could say,” he said. “You kind of get addicted to it. You start with one, and the next thing you know you find another and get a good deal on another.”

Cook belongs to a club in Yakima similar to the Early Iron Club, although it functions more like a museum these days. Although it is his first year at the event, he said in the past the Yakima club would drive their tractors up through the Yakima River canyon to show them at the event. He learned about the event this year from social media.

“I thought it would be fun to come up,” he said. “Bring the tractors up and support the club.”

As he settled in at Anderson, Cook said he was really enjoying the crowd during his first time showing at the event.

“I think it’s a great show,” he said. “People are super friendly. Just a great atmosphere, a lot of kids here learning about the old equipment. It’s a lot of fun.”

Beyond the atmosphere, Cook said the community element among exhibitors is important, especially since they all share the common passion of keeping their engines working for years to come.

“You make a lot of friends here that you’ll stay in touch with for a long time,” he said. “Swapping parts around your tractors and what have you.”

Being part of what Jordan referred to as the next generation of the hobby, Cook said he doesn’t expect the infectious nature of the hobby to wane anytime soon, at least for him. The tractors are just too cool.

“Each one has their own history,” he said. “Preserving that history is saving them from the scrapyard. That’s where most of them are going. If I can do my part and dig them out of a barn or wherever they’ve been sitting, get them up running again and show them off, we don’t lose that history. I think that’s important.”

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