Steam and gas engine group marks 43 years

Deborah Prescott | Daily Press The 43rd U.P. Steam and Gas Engine show is being held today through Monday at the U.P. State Fairgrounds. Above, some of the vintage machinery on display is shown.

ESCANABA — The U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Association has been a staple in the community for 43 years. It started with a few guys gathering together with their farm equipment. They decided to bring the machines together and show them to the community, demonstrating how each machine worked.

“It just grew from there,” said Skip Dufour, president of the association, “The U.P. State Fair Authority gave us a permanent site on the fairgrounds. That has helped greatly. Without them this would be very difficult.”

One of the association’s biggest events is the annual U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Show on Labor Day weekend.

From a few guys, the show has grown into a display of machines and equipment that consumes the fairgrounds every Labor Day weekend. The 2018 show features the theme “Orphans, Oddballs and Garden Tractors.”

“These are low production tractors, you don’t see a lot of because they’re from companies that went into business and got out quickly,” said Dufour. “The machines could have been experimental…you never quite know what you’re gonna get.”

The fairgrounds will be bustling this weekend with demonstrations, the largest Upper Peninsula indoor/outdoor flea market, food vendors, an antique auto show, gun and knife show, an auction, parades, tractor pulls and tractor games.

A complimentary tractor trolley will make stops through the weekend at the event. The stops for the trolley are the ticket gate, the exhibition area, the flea market and the Antique Village.

Nestled in the south end of the fairgrounds is an acre and a half called the Antique Village. This is the place the U.P. Steam and Gas Association calls home.

The Antique Village celebrates a simpler age and surrounds visitors with an environment that takes them to the 19th century. There are many shops where artisans demonstrate their skills and sell their wares. Working displays include black-smithing, carving, glassblowing, pottery, sewing, spinning and weaving.

The carving shop displays hand-carved animals and birds, wood-turnings and handmade leather works. Rug looming, quilting and handmade jewelry will be found in the community hall.

Each day at the village during the show a vintage saw mill, shingle mill and planing mill will be in operation.

There are rock drilling demonstrations at the village rock shop, history of communication at the telegraph office and at the Railroad Depot The Upper Michigan Central Model Railroad Club demonstrates the diverse aspects of model railroading.

Friday through Monday a Fairbanks-Morse diesel engine will crank-up at 2 p.m. to demonstrate the workings of the engine. This 80 ton engine once powered a tugboat and was capable of producing 3,000 hp at 200 revolutions per minute.

The garden and arranged flower displays through the village have been tended to by some members of the U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Association through the summer.

The village has a reproduction of a 1905 classroom and a nondenominational chapel, which has been in service for one year now. Sunday, Sept. 2 at 9 a.m., there will be a community worship service in the chapel.

“As of this Friday, we’ve had six weddings this year,” said Dufour, “that says it’s doing well.”

In 1986, the association built a permanent Agricultural Museum in the village that holds a mix of artifacts and antique equipment.

When the show closes on Monday, the Antique Village and the Agricultural Museum will continue their Summer in the Village season, through Sept. 15. on Tuesday and Thursday every week from 1 to 4 p.m. The Agricultural Museum is open by appointment through Oct. 31.

There is an admission fee to the U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Show. Exhibitors and children under 14 may enter free. The show is open Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.. and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Labor Day.