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smithsburg steam engine

September 25, 2005|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

tiffanya@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG

Hundreds of vendors and more than 3,000 patrons came Saturday to the 31st annual Smithsburg Steam Engine & Craft Show on the grounds of the Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co.

The steam engine show, a fundraiser for Smithsburg High School athletics, has raised more than $400,000 since it started in 1974, event chairman Mike Rohrer said. The event showcases old-fashioned, steam engine-powered mills and tractors.

Rohrer, who is the last of the show's founders still involved in the planning the event, said this would be his last year as chairman.

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"I'm getting tired," Rohrer said. "Even though I'm retiring, there's still things I'm working on for next year."

The Smithsburg Steam Engine & Craft Show started as a way to raise money for Smithsburg High School athletics, said Rohrer, who played baseball for the Leopards.

"I had already sold everything from trash cans to candy bars," he said.

The first show raised $2,000, he said. Over the past several years, the shows have raised around $25,000, he said.

Tony Aughinbaugh of Smithsburg has been coming to the event for the past 17 years. His five-man crew spent Friday setting up his mill for Saturday's show.

While Aughinbaugh said the entire event takes up 26 hours of preparation time, he said every steam engine show is like Christmas.

"This is my two days of glory," he said.

Aughinbaugh and his men eased thick log chunks skimmed across the 48-inch saw blade, creating strips of rough-cut wood planks.

"This is heritage," Aughinbaugh said. "This is stuff that's been going on for a hundred years. A lot of people don't realize how much work goes into this."

Though nobody uses steam engine mills for cutting planks or thrashing wheat in modern production, Aughinbaugh said he considered it as a hobby.

"Some people take interest in skiing," he said. "I take interest in steam and sawdust."

Louis Messler of Leitersburg is a retired farmer who restores old tractors. He said he has been coming to the Smithsburg steam engine show for the past 17 years.

"I like to keep the history of these old tractors alive," he said.

Second-year visitor Jim Kuhn of Foxville, Md., said he enjoyed the crafts and the food. He said watching the steam engines work reminded him of how good people have it today.

"Heck, the little kids who come here had no idea that the country used to be run on steam," Kuhn said.

Though he's retiring, Rohrer said he plans to be an exhibitor in the coming years.

"After 30 years of running around the show grounds, I want to sit back and enjoy the show," he said. "Change is good."

"It's sort of like watching your kids leave the house. You were there when it was just a concept and you watched it grow up."

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