Antique tractors steam into Smithsburg

September 26, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

The Smithsburg Steam Engine & Craft Show will open at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Smithsburg Fire Hall grounds.

The weekend festivities, which continue Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., are the annual edition of an event started by the Smithsburg Athletic Booster Club 27 years ago.

Funds raised - about $400,000 in the festival's long history - support the athletic program at Smithsburg High School.

"It is our main source of revenue," says Teresa Bachtell, athletic director at Smithsburg High.

Festival proceeds buy uniforms for the school's 16 varsity teams. Because the outfits are recycled to junior varsity and freshman teams, good quality purchases are made, Bachtell says. The booster organization has paid for student athletes to attend summer leagues at Hagerstown Community College and has paid for coaches' clinics. The boosters are very willing to support the athletic program - buying benches for the players, recently contributing almost $6,000 for new weight stations in the weight room.


Bachtell has been involved with the booster organization for 32 years, as basketball coach and for the last four as athletic director. People help with the festival long after their kids have graduated from the high school, she says.

"It's gotten like a community show," Rohrer says.

Fred Hartley has been involved with the festival for 21 years - 10 of those as show chairman. He and his wife, Lori, who has headed up concessions, will pass along their leadership positions to others. Their kids are out of the high school, but like many others in the community, they continue to help.

Student athletes and their parents are asked to give two hours of their time for the event, Hartley says. Fixins' - apples and pans - are handed out to students. The pans return full of homemade pies - 200 of them- that are sold to add to the booster club's revenue.

Other foods have become tradition at the Steam Engine and Craft Show. They include country ham sandwiches, pork barbecue, tenderloin, homemade bean soup and the "world famous" Leopard Stew, named for the high school's mascot. Rohrer compares it to a Brunswick stew and says it's made from a secret recipe.

Part of the secret may be in the stirring, and some of the stirrers have a direct link to Smithsburg High's athletic program.

"Our coaches come out and support it," Bachtell says. She usually sells tickets for the food concessions, but says she may move up to stew stirrer this year.

The weekend festival draws 30,000 to 50,000 people, Hartley says.

Do they come for that stew?

Some, maybe, but there are plenty of other attractions.

More than 100 arts and crafts and flea market vendors will be on site.

For the little ones there are a kiddie pedal tractor pull and a "barrel-train" rides.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, a parade will begin at the show grounds. Marching bands and any of the tractors able to run will move through town, Rohrer says.

Tractors - Rohrer is expecting more than 200 - are a part of the show that honors Smithsburg's agricultural history.

The festival is a living history weekend, Rohrer says.

There also will be six or seven antique steam traction engines and 150 gas engines on display.

A 1920 steam-powered sawmill, made in York, Pa., will be running. Cedar shingles will be made and branded to be sold as souvenirs.

Russ Wolfinger will bring at least one of his old threshing machine. He has three - a 1929, 1938 and 1948 - all made by Case in Racine, Wis.

Wolfinger rents out most of his 117 acres in Leitersburg, but does just enough farming to "keep my fingers greasy," he says.

He's lived on his farm all his life. As a kid, he thought if he never saw a threshing machine again it would be too soon, but now he likes to watch the old equipment take the grain out of the straw.

"I like to do it," he says, and he will. Wolfinger will demonstrate threshing - the way it used to be done - at the Smithsburg Steam Engine & Craft Show.

"I surely do think it's important," he says of preserving the region's agricultural heritage.

The weekend gives people a chance to see how farming was done in days gone by, Rohrer says. He enjoys seeing people show their grandchildren the old machinery, the old ways. "It's a neat thing."

Rohrer has been involved with the festival since its early days. "We don't change a whole lot," he says.

With community-wide support, the Steam Engine & Craft Show keeps running - much like the old engines and machinery that will be on display.

"They still work," Rohrer says.

If you go . . .

Twenty-eighth Annual Smithsburg Steam Engine & Craft Show

Smithsburg Fire Hall grounds

Smithsburg, Md.

Free admission.

-- Saturday, Sept. 28

Opens at 9 a.m.

Parade, which ends the day's activities, begins at 5 p.m.

-- Sunday, Sept. 29, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Directions: Take Md. 64 east from Hagerstown. Turn left on Md. 66 through Smithsburg. Turn left at traffic light at square. At the bottom of hill, turn right into alley, E. School Lane.

Free parking adjacent to the show grounds.

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