It's not just the fairs – antique power shows are being cancelled, too

Grace Connatser
Wisconsin State Farmer
Andy Schmitz, Slinger, steams some corn using the steam from his 1916 Case 50 hp steam engine during a past Dodge County Antique Power Club show. This year's show is being cancelled due to COVID-19.

UPDATE: Since publishing this story, two more events have been cancelled

The Wisconsin Steam & Antique Engine Club has canceled their annual antique power show this year.

A statement on their Facebook page said the board of directors voted to cancel the event. This follows the cancellations of other antique power shows, like the Dodge County Antique Power Show in Burnett Corners, and many county fairs.

The show was originally scheduled for August 8 and 9 in Chilton at the Calumet County Fairgrounds. President Willie Boettcher said earlier this month that the club was considering cancelling after their regular monthly meetings were cancelled several times.

"We'll be back next year with a great show," the statement read. "Thank you for your past attendance and looking forward to 2021!"

The Dodge County Antique Power Club has cancelled its annual August antique power show, and other shows in Wisconsin may be following suit.

“It was a very hard decision to make but we prefer that everyone stays safe so we can enjoy shows together in the future,” a Facebook statement read.

The show celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018 at Burnett Corners, northeast of Beaver Dam, where it has been held since 1986. The show regularly displays antique tractors, steam and gas engines, cars, trucks and other old-school plowing equipment. There’s also a flea market, blacksmithing, fair food and crafts for kids and adults.

Club president Bill Frank said this is the first time the show has been canceled in 52 years. Frank said the club had to consider safety concerns with COVID-19 among the significantly older population, who are especially affected by the virus, as well as revenue and production issues related to widespread economic hardships among Wisconsin families.

Frank said the club is considering doing a smaller show around the tail-end of August to make up for the lack of the annual show, but it’s still a work in progress. In the meantime, he said Wisconsinites should be visiting the state’s public parks, nature preserves and walking trails to make up for the absence of annual summer events – and it’s a good way to save money.

“It’s an excellent time to go see them and enjoy the wildlife and scenery,” Frank said. “Our state is full of that.”

Frank said he’s not worried about the lack of revenue from the show this year. He said the club is “sitting good enough” on funds, and with the generosity of its members, the gap won’t be an issue. But he said this is still a new situation for the club, so he plans on keeping expenses down and continuing to maintain the club’s grounds.

“This is all new,” Frank said. “Life gives you a curve ball and you just do the best you can.”

Adam Montgomery said he's been going to the Dodge County show since he was born in 1998 because his dad has a fascination with antique tractors. His dad bought his first antique tractor, a restoration project, when Montgomery was 4 years old and took it to the power show. He bought another 2 years later.

Montgomery's dad taught him to drive a tractor at 7 years old. Ever since then, Montgomery has fallen head over heels for antique tractors.

"Something about them just always grabbed my attention," Montgomery said. "When [my dad] cranks that motor over and it first fires up, I'll tell you, chills literally go down my spine."

Montgomery considers going to the Dodge County show a family tradition - he said he goes with his two brothers and three sisters too. He also has a two-year-old daughter with whom he wants to continue the tradition. 

Steam engine enthusiasts may have to travel further to attend a show this year as the coronavirus pandemic is forcing the cancellation of many local shows.

These power shows are important for teaching younger generations about how things used to be done, Montgomery said. He said these older technologies are the reason we have more modern technologies today. Overall, he said the show is "a huge learning experience."

Regardless of the cancellation, Montgomery still intends on going to other power shows in the state as long as they're still operating.

"When [the club] cancelled that, it was like a jab in the heart," he said. "I've never missed one and now I have to miss one. If I wanna miss that show, it's gonna be under my circumstances."

The Badger Steam and Gas Engine Club’s annual show in Baraboo is still on, president Steve Raudebush said. The show, in its 57th year, is scheduled for August 21-23 on the club’s property north of downtown Baraboo.

The club’s March, April and May monthly meetings were cancelled. Raudebush said the club will make the final decision on whether to hold the August show on July 1.

“We’re still planning on having it,” Raudebush said. “It’s whatever Sauk County wants.”

The Wisconsin Steam and & Antique Engine Club’s annual show, in its 68th year, is also still on for now. The show is scheduled for August 8-9 in Chilton at the Calumet County Fairgrounds. Club president Willie Boettcher said the club will meet June 14th to discuss whether the show will go on as planned. The club’s May meeting was cancelled “due to social distancing guidelines,” according to their Facebook page.

“It’s not looking good,” Boettcher said.