Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Honoring Minnesota’s agricultural heritage at a steam & gas engines show, Part I September 6, 2017

A steam engine tractor plows a field. The men standing on the plow guide the blades to the proper plowing depth via levers.


AS SEASONS SHIFT from the growing days of summer to the harvest days of autumn here in Minnesota, aged tractors, threshing machines and other vintage agricultural equipment roll out of storage for annual threshing and steam and gas engine shows.


The engineers at the helm of the steam engine tractor concentrate on guiding it along the field.


On display under plexiglass: a replica 1920s threshing scene crafted by David Terry.


It’s a common scene this clustering of folks around vintage tractors.


These events mark a celebration of the past, a preservation of history, the remembering of a way of life, a focus on the labor intensive efforts of long ago farming. Here retired farmers lean against tractor wheels, men guide massive steam engines, kids learn and an honoring of times past prevails.


After finishing a plowing pass in the field, the steam engine tractor heads back to the other end.


Sunday afternoon I embraced Minnesota’s agricultural history at the annual Labor Day weekend Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show in rural Dundas. I didn’t view every aspect of the event, but enough to once again feel a deep appreciation and respect for my rural heritage.


John Deeres were the featured tractor this year.


I love meeting friendly and photogenic vendors who are willing to be photographed.


Flea market vendors offer merchandise ranging from glassware to tools to clothing and lots more, including many agricultural related items.


With camera in hand, I roamed part of the grounds looking for photo ops that would present a personal and unique perspective of the show. From the flea market to the music shed to the rows of tractors and the vintage playground, I found my photos. There is so much heart and soul here and an obvious love of all things related to farming of bygone decades.


These girls rode their vintage banana seat bikes from Northfield. And, yes, there parents were at the show.


Carefree dancing and twirling as only kids will do.


Even the playground equipment is vintage.


I’m especially delighted that so many kids attend. Kids pedaling banana seat bikes. Kids twirling to the old-time music of the Czech Area Concertina Club. Kids steering tractors. Kids swinging on heavy horse swings now banned from most playgrounds.


Some families, like the Pinc family, bring multiple tractors in multiple brands.


Generations spanning infants to elders come to this show ground along Minnesota State Highway 3 under a sky that holds the haze of autumn, of a sun that still blazes heat in the afternoon, of a land that yields its bounty to the harvesters. Here on these acres, memories rise like a prayer of thanksgiving as summer eases into autumn.

TELL ME: Do you attend these types of historic farming shows? If yes, I’d like to hear more.

PLEASE CHECK back for additional photo rich posts as I continue my series from the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “Honoring Minnesota’s agricultural heritage at a steam & gas engines show, Part I”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    I think I recall commenting before on a post you wrote about this type of event because we used to go to a great Steam Threshing Fair when we lived in Ohio. Those machines link us to the past, don’t they?

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    Hello!!!! Yup….still on this orb! Your photos are so-o-o-o-o very welcome on these eventful weather related days that steal “normalcy” from us all. To observe, and actually feel, the “peace” that was present when all was new and brought back by this current display, is a “breath of fresh air” and brings a sigh………the dancing children photo is my fave!!!! Hugs…………

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    ME: Ooooooo, tractors.
    MY WIFE: There goes the afternoon.

    • I used to think like your wife. But then, after I really got into photography, I took my camera and saw the event with an entirely different perspective.

      Does she like to shop? She could shop the flea market while you drool over the tractors.

  4. Littlesundog Says:

    I love that there is something for everyone at these events. I am used to seeing a lot of festivals and vintage celebrations like this in Nebraska, but not so much here in the south. Locally, there is a threshing event around county fair times. Lots of schools bus kids in so that they can understand the progression of farming and implements since the early 1900’s.

  5. Valerie Says:

    We thought about going to this event but didn’t. We have been before and it is very interesting. Glad you were able to attend and take photos.

  6. Jackie Says:

    Well you know I enjoy these sort of events, I Recently blogged about the antique tractor and farm machinery show in Park Rapids. Another thing you and I love to do!

  7. Susan Ready Says:

    I am always in awe your ability to view the local events you attend from many different angles and perspective. Your love of rural heritage is evident. You find beauty in it all.

  8. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Great pictures. Farm shows are a lot of fun to attend. I wish that I had more time to do so

  9. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    I just watched this farming video on YouTube and thought you might enjoy!

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