Northern Indiana Power From the Past Summer Show Takes Attendees Back in Time
Writer / Julie Yates
For more than 45 years, Northern Indiana Power From the Past has been dedicated to educating children and adults about farm machinery of days gone by. The organization began in 1977 by a handful of antique tractors owners who approached the Pulaski County Fair board about exhibiting equipment at the fair. The attraction was so successful that one year later, the organization incorporated and doubled its membership to 16 individuals.
This year the members will hold their annual Summer Show from July 14 through 17. More than 40,000 people typically attend the event, which not only showcases and demonstrates antique farm machinery with differing power sources, but also includes a very large flea market, food vendors and live entertainment. Also included are live demonstrations such as blacksmithing, woodworking and apple cider pressing.
An important aspect of the organization, which is comprised of both men and women, is encouraging youth who are interested in agricultural careers. Each year it awards up to three scholarships to high school seniors. Recipients are generally involved in 4-H, come from farm families and have shown interest in Northern Indiana Power From the Past. Funds for the scholarships are generated from the yearly Summer Show revenue. Instructions for applying can be found on the organization’s website.
“After being an attraction at the 1977 county fair, eight guys got together and decided to create a club,” says John Crist, president. “Back then each member donated $100, so we started out with $800. The average age of the founders was early 30s. Today we are independent. We don’t ask for grants and we don’t ask for dues – just sweat. We get our money from the show. We hope that scholarship winners will stay involved with us.”
The oldest machines the organization has in its collection are from the early 1900s. Before combines existed, corn and wheat would be harvested and bound. It would lay in the fields until wagons would bring it back to the farm, where the wheat would be threshed and the corn kernels would be taken off the ear. This multi-step process took a lot of manpower, horse power and, later, steam power. From there the grain would go to a grist mill.
“Back in the day a lot of folks built their own equipment,” says Scotty Hankla, co-vice president. “People were very inventive. If they needed it, they would make it. One of our most interesting pieces is a sawmill that was hand-built in the 1950s by Frank Miller, a former member who passed on about 20 years ago. It used a steam tractor engine.”
The organization uses a building west of town that was donated by the late Ralph Braun to house its collection. All the machines are contributed by members of the community. Although there is a 30’x40’ workspace, machinery is tightly packed in. Due to size constraints, the only time the public is able to view the antique machinery is at the yearly show.
“People come from as far away as Canada as well as the west and east coasts,” Hankla says of the show. “Elder farmers love the stuff. At the show they can see demonstrations of equipment they saw being used when they were kids.”
“The show’s live entertainment includes a local band every night,” Crist adds. “There is a horse pull on Saturday. There are hand-tooling demonstrations and things on display like an old-fashioned printing press. Each year we highlight a certain manufacturer and this year will feature John Deere.”
The 2022 Summer Show will be held in Winamac Town Park, located at 262 East Old State Road 14. Gates will be open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. from July 14 through 17.
Visit the organization’s website, winamacpowershow.com, or their Facebook page, for updates and event schedules.
Those interested in volunteering and/or becoming a member are encouraged to contact any of the organization’s officers listed on the website. Monthly meetings start at 6 p.m. on Sundays at the Pulaski County Highway Garage, located at 1131 North U.S. Highway 35 in Winamac.