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Local Column

Schrader: Steam power show and barn tours this weekend

Steam engines, such as this one participating in a previous year's parade, can be seen up close, providing all the smells and sounds of a bygone era at the Sycamore Steam Show and Threshing Bee parade, held daily at 1:30 p.m. though Sunday near the intersection of Plank and Lukens roads north of Sycamore.
Steam engines, such as this one participating in a previous year's parade, can be seen up close, providing all the smells and sounds of a bygone era at the Sycamore Steam Show and Threshing Bee parade, held daily at 1:30 p.m. though Sunday near the intersection of Plank and Lukens roads north of Sycamore.

Two of my favorite summertime events happen to be crowded into one weekend, but if you plan the next three days carefully you can see it all.

Running for 62 years, the Sycamore Steam Power Show and Threshing Bee offers visitors lessons in agricultural history that cannot be found anywhere else.

Talking with steam power club President Milan Duchaj (pronounced Doo-High) this week, he pointed out some of the highlights during the four-day run from Thursday through Sunday. They will have two saw mills operating this year to demonstrate how trees are turned into lumber, the Sycamore Fire Department’s restored 1928 engine will be on display and the steam-powered shovel owned by the Fruit family from Kirkland will be operating. In addition to about 15 or 20 steam-powered engines, there will be more than 100 tractors of all vintages on display.

My favorites are the “Noon Toot,” when the steam whistles all blast at the same time, followed by the parade of old vehicles at 1:30 p.m. Of course, the day would not be complete without downing a brat, some corn on the cob, shiskebob or a pork chop from Fay’s BBQ. I also find the two metal buildings – the Founders Building and the Malsch Family Building – packed with interesting exhibits, flea market items and historical displays. The daily baked goods sale is a sellout.

There is so much more, such as the FFA petting zoo, where your family can take selfies with live farm animals and find lots of “stuff” for sale. So don’t just say “I’ve been there, done that” anymore than you would say the same about a baseball game. If you’ve seen one White Sox home run, why come back to see more men run around the bases? ...

Now let’s get on to the DeKalb County Barn Tour on Saturday, which is a misnomer because it actually has moved south of our county into the Rollo, Paw Paw, Leland and Earlville areas, where there are some unique barns, corn cribs and other outbuildings not found anywhere else nearby.

Cliff Golden, one of the volunteers who took a preview tour last weekend, said he was told this is the finest collection of barns ever featured on the tour, which is in its fifth year as a fundraiser for the DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association and the J.F. Glidden Homestead. This event attracts visitors from throughout the Chicago area as they normally would never have the opportunity to get inside these working barns or see farm animals up close where they can even get a whiff of them.

Golden told me about octagonal barns and an eight-sided corn crib. There even is an ice house that would mystify the younger visitors who don’t know what an ice box looks like or that the ice man dropped off blocks to people before electricity or the invention of refrigerators. Lots of antique equipment and demonstrations at all eight farms could fill an entire weekend, but you only have from 9 a.m. to
4 p.m. to race from farm to farm, using a provided map. Cram as many people as you can into your SUV or camper because they charge by the carload – $25.

The Daily Chronicle and MidWeek had articles this week with details on all this, or visit threshingbee.org and dekalbcountybarntour.com.

• Barry Schrader can be reached at barry815@sbcglobal.net or through P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115. Past columns can be found on his webpage, www.dekalbcountylife.com.

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