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U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Association Annual Show to go on — virtually

Courtesy photo Harold Hertig of Gladstone drives a 1950 Allis Chalmers WD tractor with a mounted small round hay bale loader in a parade during the U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Association’s Annual Show in 2009.

ESCANABA — While the U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Association had to cancel its 45th Annual Show in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Labor Day weekend tradition will live on in another way. A virtual show will be held during the first weekend of September on the association’s social media channels.

This year’s Annual Show had been scheduled for Sept. 4-7.

“We were planning a very big show this year,” Sharon Willis — a member of the U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Association who runs the association’s social media accounts and is organizing the Virtual Show — said.

In addition to it commemorating the event’s 45th anniversary, Michigan IH Collectors Chapter #11 had been set to attend 2020’s Annual Show before the pandemic hit. The group had last attended the show in 2003.

“We were really excited to have them back,” Willis said.

However, it soon became apparent that a normal Annual Show could not be held in September. Although an official announcement of the show’s cancellation was not made until July 8, Willis said the writing had been on the wall since the U.P. State Fair’s own cancellation announcement on June 30.

“If the fair can’t do it, we can’t do it,” she said.

Association members and exhibitors were disappointed that the Annual Show could not go forward as planned.

“We’ve had a show for 44 years, and this is a Labor Day weekend tradition,” Willis said, noting about a hundred exhibitors had pre-registered for the event.

Willis came up with the idea of holding an online version of the Annual Show after it became clear that it would not be feasible to hold the event as planned in 2020.

“I was talking to my husband, and I was like ‘why don’t we just do it online?,'” she said.

Willis went on to tell her father — U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Association Vice President Bob Willis — about her idea. Association members decided to move forward with the Virtual Show at the same meeting where they voted to cancel the Annual Show for 2020.

The Virtual Show will take place Sept. 4-7 on the U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Association’s YouTube, Facebook and Instagram accounts. A new YouTube video will be posted by the association each day at 9 a.m.; the association will post every 15 minutes on Facebook from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 4-6 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 7; and posts will be shared at random times throughout the weekend on the association’s Instagram account.

Each day of the event will also have its own theme. On Friday, photos and videos from the association’s earliest shows and later shows — some of which have never been seen before — will be shared.

“We’re going to celebrate 45 years of the U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Association,” Willis said.

Saturday’s theme will be “Machinery in Motion.”

“It’s going to be all videos,” Willis said.

According to Willis, videos shared this day will include clips from various Annual Shows over the years and submissions from exhibitors.

“Some people have sent in some video of their equipment, so we’ll be showing those,” she said.

Sunday’s posts will focus on photo exhibits sent to the association.

“We’ll be sharing those, and we’ll be filling out the day with photos of exhibits through the years,” Willis said.

Finally, Monday will be a “grab bag” in which participants can expect to see a little bit of everything — including more never-before-seen photos and videos.

Another Annual Show tradition — the collectable buttons distributed to attendees — will also be made available online as part of the Virtual Show.

“We’ve made a virtual button that people can go to our website and download,” Willis said.

Willis said the content shared during the Virtual Show will eventually be made available to people who do not enjoy using social media.

“When the show is over, we’ll post all of this on our website,” she said.

The photos and videos will be shared on the website on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

People who would like to share photos and videos of their own equipment or past Annual Shows still have an opportunity to do so.

“We would love virtual exhibitors,” Willis said.

Submissions can be emailed to 2020virtualshow@gmail.com and will be accepted through Thursday, Aug. 20.

Willis said she and other members of the association are looking forward to the Virtual Show.

“We’re excited and we hope people enjoy it. It’s given me a chance to go back and look at some of these photos and some of these videos and go ‘oh, yeah, I remember that!,'” she said.

For more information, visit www.upsteamandgasengine.org.

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