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Published September 03, 2010, 12:00 AM

Editorial: Steam threshers gathering at Rollag

The Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion is big, but it’s not the biggest such gathering in the nation.

The Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion is big, but it’s not the biggest such gathering in the nation. It’s not the smallest either. There are a few steam power festivals in the region that attract a lot of visitors.

But the event that kicks off today near Rollag, Minn., is among the best steam shows anywhere. From humble beginnings decades ago, the WMSTR has become a spectacular exposition of history, technology and heritage. It is, as its advocates proudly say, a “living museum.”

Place the emphasis on “living.”

The great show has taken the legend and lore of a relatively short era in the region’s agricultural history and turned it into a marvelous display of vintage machinery and all the trappings that go with the big (and small) machines. Moreover, the reunion relies on skills handed down from generation to generation. After all, steam-powered equipment indeed is the stuff of either museums or junk piles in farm tree belts. But at Rollag, the great outdoor museum comes alive with the sounds and sights of a time gone by.

It didn’t just happen. Tens of thousands of volunteer hours through many years have made the reunion what it is today. In many instances, several generations of families have kept the tradition flourishing. The skills needed to keep the show going and growing – from operating the big steam engines to machining parts to keep them running – are not common. They have to be preserved and honed by the machinists, operators and tradesmen who have devoted themselves to the reunion.

And it’s not only the big machines, although it’s hard to match the sound and sight of a great steam tractor or steam-driven thresher. The reunion has evolved into a real exposition of every facet of early life on the farm.

The weather looks as nice as it gets in early September, with lots of sun and comfortable temperatures. The good folks who make the reunion one of the best shows around are ready with a big northwest Minnesota welcome, starting this morning with the traditional thresherman’s breakfast. Load up the family and head to Rollag and expect a great time – history, food, kids events and the rest. There really is nothing like it.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.