Smithsburg steam show keeps chugging along

September 30, 2000

Smithsburg steam show keeps chugging along

By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer

SMITHSBURG - The lower end of the field holding the annual Smithsburg Steam Engine and Craft Show was a cacophony of clanging gears, shifting levers, whirling flywheels and hissing steam.

And that was when the mega-ton iron behemoths were standing still, before they began lumbering across the field in the annual steam parade.

Up the hill, closer to the food stands, things were quieter as 60 craft and flea market vendors offered their wares to those among the estimated crowd of 30,000 expected over the two-day festival that began Saturday.

The crowd estimate came from Wayne Smith. Smith, a former chairman of the festival committee, said he has worked on 25 of the 26 festivals.


The festival raises $15,000 to $18,000 each year and supports Smithsburg High School athletic programs, Smith said.

"The neat part of this festival is that there is no one big attraction," Smith said. "The equipment down there attracts older people who can relate to what life was like back then.

"This is a farming community, and those things bring back a lot of nostalgia," he said.

The flea market draws another segment and the crafts yet another. Everyone goes for the food.

Tony Pellegrino was manning one of four large cast-iron kettles sitting on hot wood fires. Two held bean soup and two Leopard Stew, a steam show staple that's nothing more than beef vegetable named after the Smithsburg High School mascot.

Pellegrino said the recipes and the responsibility to make the soups "were handed down to me.

"They just gave me a couple of kettles and off we went," he said.

He isn't sure, but he believes the soup recipes are secrets that shouldn't be shared.

Paul Leatherman was standing at the business end of his 12-ton, 1922 J.I. Case steam tractor. The machine was running a belt drive more than 75 feet off its front end. At the other end the belt spun a lethal-looking, 48-inch circular saw that was slicing an oak log into inch-thick planks.

The saw rig was being manned by Jim Reichard of Falling Waters, W.Va., and his crew. Reichard runs the machine at the show every year. The rig, a permanent fixture, is owned by the steam show committee.

Back at the Case, Butts was manning the throttle.

"I grew up around men who ran these things," Leatherman said. "My father and grandfather started taking them around when steam shows first started in this area in the late 1950s."

Leatherman bought his Case in 1996. He said he hauls it to about 11 shows a summer in the four-state area.

The last Case was built in 1924, he said. The big steam engines, including brands such as Eclipse and Peerless, which were made in Waynesboro, Pa., are still being used by some Amish farmers, Leatherman said.

Leatherman said his biggest thrill is giving kids rides at the festivals.

"They love it," he said. "Their eyes get like saucers. They can't believe it moves.

"It's also good to be a part of living history."

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