Antique village ready for busy fair week

Jordan Beck | Daily Press U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Association Board Member Jim Yoder loads logs onto the deck of a sawmill in the association’s Antique Village in preparation for the U.P. State Fair Wednesday. Skip Dufour, the association’s president, said the village welcomes a minimum of 200 to 300 people per day during the fair.

ESCANABA — With the U.P. State Fair starting Monday, work is underway to prepare the U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Association’s Antique Village for the crowds it will receive during this event.

“I’d say at least (200) or 300 a day, minimum,” U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Association President Skip Dufour said of attendance at the Antique Village during the fair.

Work at the Antique Village takes place throughout the year, Dufour said. However, it starts ramping up about two weeks before the fair starts.

Dufour also noted the association’s annual show is traditionally held on Labor Day weekend — just weeks after the fair.

Some of the work being done in the village in preparation for the fair is related to the village’s sawmill. The sawmill was originally built in 1861.

“We restored that about 44 years ago. It’s probably one of the oldest sawmills in the country that still runs,” Dufour said.

Preparatory work on the sawmill includes sharpening the saw blade’s teeth, checking to make sure belts are in good condition and are properly laced, tuning up the engine and greasing the mill’s mechanism. According to Dufour, this work takes the “better part of a day.”

Another saw located next to the sawmill is also being prepared for the U.P. State Fair.

“We have what’s called a dragsaw, and that’s used for firewood,” Dufour said.

The preparatory process for the dragsaw, which involves sharpening saw blades, getting the saw’s antique one-cylinder engine running and performing general maintenance, is similar to the process of preparing the sawmill.

Work is being done to get the Antique Village’s trapper’s cabin — the village’s newest building — ready for the fair, as well.

“We have a nice display in there of trapping equipment,” Dufour said.

The cabin was constructed in 2018. Dufour said work being done to complete the building includes installing handicapped access ramps, finishing the building’s exterior, putting furnishings inside the building and setting the trapping display up.

Aside from this, Butch noted efforts to prepare the Antique Village’s shops and other areas for the U.P. State Fair are ongoing.

“Everybody’s getting everything set up, cleaned up and working,” he said.

This summer, some shops in the Antique Village have been open on Thursday afternoons. Dufour said attendance on Thursdays has been “spotty,” but feedback from those who have visited the village on these days has been positive.

This initiative is serving as a way to experiment with the possibility of having the Antique Village open as a full-time attraction during the summer months, Dufour said. He noted the new multi-use complex located near the Antique Village — which will include the U.P. Veterans Museum and Webster Marble “Inventing the Outdoors” Museum, as well as a U.P. Welcome Center — could help bring people to the village.

“We’re going to have a lot more traffic on the fairgrounds,” he said.

For the time being, Dufour said people will be able to enjoy visiting the Antique Village at the U.P. State Fair, at the annual show and on Thursdays through Aug. 29.

“It’s probably one of the best attractions at the fair,” he said.


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