For 50 years, the Milton Steam Era has ushered in the end of summer with its annual event. This weekend is a time to bring out the kids and learn some history about the ways things used to be.
Stephanie Hounsell has a great article in the Champion this week as well.
Going full steam ahead – Fiftieth Steam-Era show this weekend
Neil Ford stands between two of the Rumely tractors he has restored and will display during this Labour Day weekend’s 50th annual Steam-Era event at the Milton Fair Grounds. Ford attended the first show 50 years ago and has the W 20-30 Rumely tractor that was displayed at the first show.
The year was 1961, and Neil Ford was a young man excited about attending the first-ever Steam-Era show at the Milton Fair Grounds.
It was something new and exciting for the then-small town, and the largely agricultural community embraced it wholeheartedly in the years to come, earning Milton the title “Steam Capital of Ontario.”
Fifty years later, Ford still eagerly anticipates the annual show, which this year will start tomorrow and continue until Monday.
It’s the tractors rather than the steam engines that draw Ford year after year, particularly Rumely tractors, of which he’ll display eight in the upcoming event, including one from the inaugural show.
The 50th anniversary of the Steam-Era is one that has the members of the Ontario Steam and Antique Preservers Association — which puts on the show — excited.
“It’s a milestone for sure,” said past president David Stirk.
As usual, the Steam-Era will take place at the Milton Fair Grounds, with the grounds opening at 8 a.m. each day and closing after the evening’s featured entertainment, except Monday, when activities will wrap up in the late afternoon.
Saturday’s ever-popular Steam-Era parade, starting at about 1 p.m., will see machines big and small lumber along downtown Main Street from Commercial Street to Bell Street and then to the fairgrounds.
Opening ceremonies will take place at 2 p.m., with a handful of the original association members on hand.
The show will feature a wide array of operating steam traction engines — a type of agricultural tractor powered by steam in the late 1800s and early 1900s — and stationary steam engines, all painstakingly restored to their original glory. Also featured will be vintage operating gas tractors and stationary engines, along with antique cars.
There will be demonstrations (sawmill, threshing, etc.), tractor pulls, steam-powered corn roasts, steam engine spark shows, daily grand parades of equipment and more. There will also be toys, crafts, music, a flea market and food vendors.
In recognition of the event’s anniversary, a tent will feature items and machines from the first 10 years of the Steam-Era. Something new this year is an exhibit by the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association featuring a live observation hive.
Saturday at 7:30 p.m., the 33rd annual Country and Western Talent Contest will take place, while Sunday at 7 p.m. will feature music by Digger and the Campfire Country Music Band.
There’ll be something for everyone, Stirk said, adding this might be the best steam show in all of North America. People come from far away to attend.
Steam engines have fascinated Stirk for a long time.
“It’s that proverbial bug — almost like catching the flu,” he said of his fascination. “You get that steam bug and you’re stuck with it.”
Much has changed since the first Steam-Era, when admission cost 75 cents. These days, many people don’t come to remember, but to learn something new, said Stirk, who hopes new residents will give it a try.
“I can’t urge them enough. It’s a whole different form of entertainment. It’s not an amusement park, it’s not a fair, it’s a festival,” he said.
Admission costs $8 for adults and is free for kids under 12 with an adult. Weekend passes are available for $17. Admission fees include each night’s entertainment.
For more information on the Steam Era go to www.steam-era.com and see the details of what’s happening all Labour Day weekend long.
I hope to see you there.