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Getting up steam

Annual show features variety of engines

Annual show features variety of engines

September 30, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

Tractors at the 28th edition of the Smithsburg Steam Engine & Craft Show ranged in size from small lawn tractors to 9-ton, steam-belching behemoths that were made around the turn of the 20th century.

The tractors, 65 craft booths and another 65 flea market booths - along with the show's famous bean soup, apple cider and other country delicacies - are expected to draw from 50,000 to 60,000 patrons again this year, said Gerry Warren, treasurer of the annual event.

The show has been sponsored since it began by the Smithsburg High School Athletics Boosters. The event raises $18,000 for the school, said Warren, who's been with it for 26 years.


This year, the show was expected to sell about 380 gallons of soup, said Brian Getz, a booster volunteer who was manning a wooden paddle at one of the steaming black cast iron soup kettles.

"Last year, we grossed $4,400 on the soup and $2,900 on the cider," Warren said. "That amazes me. A lot of people must like it."

He said the crowd estimate was given to the boosters several years ago by Maryland State Police.

"They flew over in their helicopter and estimated it," he said. "We get about the same number of people every year."

Warren said some of the same steam engines show up every year.

The huge, slow-moving machines are the main feature in the steam parade that crawls through Smithsburg on Saturday, the first day of the two-day event. The parade starts to move at 5 p.m., Warren said.

"It's getting bigger, too," he said. "This year, we have four bands."

Kevin L. Rice, 39, of Hagerstown brought his 1915 65-horsepower Case steam tractor to the show again this year. He learned how to repair steam-driven equipment in the railroad roundhouse in Hagerstown, he said.

The antiques he restored were used to pull special excursion trains or to go on display in museums across the country, he said.

He bought the Case tractor 10 years ago from a man in Wisconsin for $10,000. He spent years restoring it, machining many of its parts himself.

"One identical to it sold at an auction in Upper Marlboro last year for $34,000," Rice said. "You could offer me $100,000 and I wouldn't sell this one. I've got a lot of time in it and it's too much fun."

Members of the McConnellsburg, Pa.-based Grease, Steam and Rust Association brought their Eclipse steam tractor, a 9-ton leviathan made by the Frick Co. in Waynesboro, Pa., in 1916. The huge machines are hauled around to shows and fairs on tractor-trailers.

This weekend, as they do every year, the steam tractors are offering a look back at how things were in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their owners hook them up to a threshing machine, a sawmill and a machine that makes cedar shingles.

Fred Miller, a director of the Mason-Dixon Historical Society Inc., sat beside a shiny red 1948 McCormick Farmall C tractor the society was raffling off for $1 a ticket.

The winner has a choice of the tractor, which Miller values at $2,500, or $500 in cash. If the winner chooses to take the cash, the society will sell the tractor, Miller said.

"We'd like it to go to a good home where it will be cared for," he said.

The society bought the tractor from a collector who had restored it.

"It's in perfect running condition," Miller said.

Bethanie Martin, 10 weeks old, made her Steam and Craft Show debut Saturday with her parents, Neil and Debbie Martin of Smithsburg. The couple has three other girls at home, ages 11, 14 and 18.

At the other end of the age spectrum, sitting at a picnic table a little distance away, was Emory Doyle, 79. The Smithsburg native was munching on a hamburger. He's been a fixture at steam and craft shows since the first one, he said, and hasn't missed many since.

"They used to have a lot more steam engines before," he said. "Now the flea markets have taken over."

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