EDGERTON—The 65th Annual Rock River Thresheree is scheduled for Labor Day weekend, Sept. 3-6, at Threshermen’s Park on Highway 51 between Janesville and Edgerton.
Grounds will be open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. each day.
In reaching the milestone of 65th annual, the thresheree has become a staple in the Milton/Edgerton area, attracting thousands of people each year across the four-day weekend.
Members of the organization are eager to gather after last year’s cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everybody is chomping to show off their equipment again,” says Charlie Hendrickson, vice president and director of Rock River Thresheree Inc.. “We’re going to have some unique demonstrations.”
This year’s focus will be on steam-powered equipment. Much of the equipment remains permanently on the grounds, but other pieces—including a steam shovel brought in by the Northern Illinois Steam Power Club in Sycamore, Illinois—will be on display. Hendrickson said he hopes to also have a steam-powered log hauler from northern Wisconsin.
Another unique feature will be the debut of a fully restored and operating Bucyrus 41B Dragline. Owned by group member Mike Furgason of Edgerton, the 40-ton machine was pulled from a farm in Canada and transported to Furgason’s property, where he spent 21 years bringing it back to life.
Hendrickson calls the restored machine a mechanical masterpiece.
“What he did there is just unbelievable,” Hendrickson said of Fergason’s work to restore the machine.
Visitors can also expect the usual displays and demonstrations. The Parade of Power is scheduled for 2 p.m. daily in the Natural Amphitheater. The saw mill and shingle mill will be operating, and potato digging is planned at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Threshing demonstrations tend to be popular with visitors. With wheat on the ground, organizers bundle it just as they did 100 years ago.
“And then we demonstrate how they would thresh the wheat from the straw,” Hendrickson said. Today, this work would be done by a combine.
Adding to the list of things to do at the event, Hendrickson said, “You can drive your first tractor.” A popular opportunity for kids, this involves adults riding along and handling most of the machinery operation while kids steer.
The Museum of Agriculture and Industry will have working steam engines and antique agricultural equipment. Visitors can see a steam-powered pile driver run hourly after 10 a.m.
Also on display will be a log cabin, the Sears House, military encampments and a steam calliope, the latter of which also operates daily. The kiddie pedal pull, pony rides and barrel train and Cannonball steam engine rides offer even more to do.
With so much going on, visitors can easily spend the whole day taking it all in.
To satisfy one’s hunger, Hendrickson said there will be food available for purchase.
Breakfast will be available, as will chicken nuggets, burgers and steamed sweet corn for snacks or lunch. Another favorite is ice cream bars from Kent’s Big Bar, which has been attending the thresheree for at least 40 years, Hendrickson said.
Food can be found around the grounds with a dairy building offering malts and other treats.
The organization strives to preserve and share the impact steam-powered equipment had in bringing the Midwest to its current agricultural leadership standing.
“Before the steam engine,” Hendrickson said, “it was horses. There was no bigger jump in agriculture than from horsepower to steam power.”
Aside from the agricultural equipment and demonstrations, there also will be an antique car and truck show and a large flea market. About 100 cars and trucks will be on display at any one time over the weekend.
Hendrickson said he only knows of three people who were at the first thresheree in 1955. Nevertheless, he calls the event a reunion for family and friends, all of whom share the same interest.
“We’re not hobbyists,” he explained. “We’re preservationists.”