Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

St. Charles Threshing Bee is Sept. 18-19

By Heather Thorstensen

Date Modified: 09/23/2010 8:59 AM

E-mail article | Print version

ST. CHARLES, Minn.—Everyone is welcome at Mike and Lynette Richter's hobby farm this weekend for their 10th annual St. Charles Threshing Bee.

The more, the merrier.Mike estimates the show has drawn 1,200 people in the past.

It will have displays and demonstrations of old-time farming practices and activities.

"We just want to demonstrate the way things used to be," Lynette said.

People can bring antique farm machinery, collections or lead demonstrations. Lynette's friends gather for wool spinning and weaving. Steam engines, threshing machines, blacksmith demonstrations, antique tractors, stationary engines, saw milling, corn shelling and grinding, apple cider-making, a chain saw collection, jams and jellies canned on a wood cook stove, rope making, and children's games also make up the event.

Mike started the Threshing Bee in 2001, partly because he realized his antique machinery collection was too big to haul to other shows and partly because some friends got the idea one day to do some threshing.

The next year, he met Lynette at another old-time farming show, the two married and continued the event with the help of many volunteers.

"It's all a labor of love," Mike said.

When it's time for the show, the Richters are as excited as children on Christmas morning because they don't know beforehand exactly who is coming and what they'll bring. One year, someone brought goats and gave milking and cheese-making demonstrations. Another time, someone brought Angora rabbits and plucked their hair on site and spun it.

They ask that people don't bring things to sell.

Mike's favorite part is the people who are willing to take time to lead demonstrations or bring machinery.He also likes how the event helps children explore their interests.Families can watch demonstrations as long as they like or participate in activities such as tug-of-war or rag doll making.

The event starts at 9 a.m. and activities will run until dinner.

Five loads of wheat and oats will go through threshing machines throughout the weekend. The grain was donated by local producers.

A home-cooked meal of hot dish, vegetable, bun, dessert and beverage made by Lynette and her sister, Cindy Skinner of Rochester, will be available for about $6.

Saturday evening's entertainment will be a musical jam session. Anyone can play music or tell stories on stage.

Among the machinery will be a 1910 Nichols & Shepard Co. steam traction engine. Traction engines, unlike stationary engines, were self-propelled. This is the biggest model the company ever made and weighs 48,000 pounds without water, said Mike. He co-owns it with Joe Brosig of Winona.

Mike also has a Flour City steel-wheeled tractor made in 1918 by Kinnard and Sons. It's one of three known to exist in the world and ran on kerosene, he said.

His collection also holds a wing-feeder Huber threshing machine with cylinders 36 inches wide from the early 1920s.

The Richters' love of old-time machinery and activities is a year-round hobby. They have a home-based business,Daisy Hill Handiworks, that offers unique handcrafted items and repairs of all kinds. Mike has outbuildings of equipment in restoration or waiting to be restored. Other pieces sit in the backyard, waiting for their turn in the shop.

A carpenter by trade, his interest stems from a fascination with his great-grandfathers' tools and past generations' way of life. He is impressed that people were so self-sufficient and could get by with no more than an 8th grade education and common sense.

Lynette works as a nutrition assistant at Mayo Clinic and enjoys spinning, weaving, sewing and knitting because those activities keep her learning while making one-of-a-kind items she can feel proud about.