Antique tractors, farm equipment take center stage in Door County at Valmy Thresheree

·5 min read
This vintage Huber tractor shows the rear wheel and running gear coverings that were common to tractors used in orchards such as the many found in Door County. Orchard tractors and high crop tractors are featured in this year's Valmy Thresheree, running from Aug. 19 to 21.
This vintage Huber tractor shows the rear wheel and running gear coverings that were common to tractors used in orchards such as the many found in Door County. Orchard tractors and high crop tractors are featured in this year's Valmy Thresheree, running from Aug. 19 to 21.

INSTITUTE - The Northeastern Wisconsin Antique Power Association holds its 39th annual Valmy Thresheree and Antique Machinery Show from Aug. 19 to 21, this year with orchard and high crop tractors as the featured machines among the antique tractors and farm equipment that will be on display throughout the event.

The Thresheree features classic and vintage farm machinery and power equipment, large and small, on display throughout the weekend, most of them still running and working; many will be part of demonstrations showing how they work. New this year is a two-day craft and vendor show.

Machines scheduled to be on display this year include grain and bean threshers, a sawmill, shingle mill, hay balers and pressers, stone crushers, a hammer mill (which crushes big pieces of grains or fruit into little pieces by repeatedly hitting them with small hammers in a cylinder), straw choppers, some hit-or-miss engines, a 1926 Sno-Go snow blower and even a vintage Maytag washing machine.

The event features a particular tractor manufacturer or type of tractor each year, and this year will recognize orchard tractors, a version near and dear to Door County farm machine buffs, and high crop tractors.

Orchard tractors and high crop tractors were made by many manufacturers and were designed for just what their names indicate. Orchard tractors, also called vineyard tractors, generally are narrower and lower-profile than standard farm tractors to work among the trees and vines; many have body shells covering the moving parts and rear tires to protect them.

Conversely, high crop tractors are designed to ride above crops that could be otherwise damaged by a regular tractor passing through, such as many vegetables or, for a more extreme example, sugar cane.

Among the other tractors on display will be a 1937 Fordson Model N, a Ford Motor Co. tractor built at the company's plant in Dagenham, England, and used around the world.

Ralph Bochek, a board member of the power association and one of the Thresheree's founding organizers, said the orchard tractors should be of significant interest in Door County given the Peninsula's history with apple, cherry and other fruit orchard crops. That, and the fact that many old orchard tractors had disappeared by the turn of the 21st century.

"Most of them were completely wore out and a lot of them scrapped," Bochek said. "Then a lot of guys found them in scrap piles 20, 30 years ago, looked around (for parts in scrap yards) and refurbished them."

The Thresheree started in 1983, when Bernie and Shirley Geisel asked a group of local farmers to produce a show that would bring back the old ways of farming, including working machinery. The Northeastern Wisconsin Antique Power Association was formed to operate it as a two-day event. For the first 15 years it was held on the Geisel farm, near Valmy.

In 1997, the club purchased 30 acres of a nearby farm, 7 miles north of Sturgeon Bay. Another adjoining 10 acres were purchased the following year, and the Thresheree was held at that site ever since.

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The event now stretches over three days, with gates opening at 6 p.m. Friday and blues-rock by Adam Haste and the Witch Doctors kicking off the festivities with a 7 p.m. show.

Saturday activities begin with a pancake breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m., working up an appetite for the chainsaw competition at 9:30 a.m. (registration at 8:30 a.m.). An antique tractor pull with 15 weight classes (machines from 1955 or earlier) gets underway at 11:30 a.m. with trophies to the top three in each.

The new Thresheree event, the craft and vendor fair, opens at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

"We always had a few vendors," Bochek said about starting the fair this year. "People asked about (having a show), we had a lot of interest, so we decided, well, let's see how it's going to work out."

Also Saturday, the Jerry Voelker Orchestra provides polka music for a "barn dance" from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday and a polka mass at 5:30 p.m. The day's festivities conclude with country music from Modern Day Drifters at 8 p.m.

Sunday at the Thresheree begins with a Lutheran church service at 8:30 a.m. At 10 a.m., children can get into action with a pedal tractor pull, a "Little Farmer" dress-up contest and a straw stack hunt. A tractor pull featuring the machines of the Lena Mini Modified Tractor Pullers Association also begins at 10 a.m., with a break at noon for the Cavalcade of Power antique machinery parade. Live music returns with country-rock from the Crystal Creek Band from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

At 3:30 p.m., one of the weekend's most popular attractions gets underway – the mud pig wrestling competition. Teams of four men or four women (coed teams are allowed but would compete in the men's division) attempt to catch a pig and place it on top of a barrel in less than one minute. Judges keep their eyes on the pigs to keep their heads above water and keep them as safe as possible. Preregistration is required for participants.

Food and refreshments are served throughout the event.

The Thresheree takes place on the grounds at 5005 Country View Road, Valmy (north of Institute). Admission is $5 per day or $10 for all three days for ages 13 and older, which includes a souvenir button. For more information, including registration for the tractor pulls or mud pig wrestling, call 920-559-0466 or visit valmythresheree.com or facebook.com/TheValmyThresheree.

Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or cclough@doorcountyadvocate.com.

This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Door County thresheree features antique tractors, farm equipment