The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

September 23, 2013

Fall Festival a window to the past

OSKALOOSA — People learned about life in the 19th and early 20th centuries Saturday at the Nelson Pioneer Farm Fall Festival.

The Mahaska County Historical Society staged the 48th Fall Festival at the Nelson Pioneer Farm. Many volunteers dressed in period costume to demonstrate a variety of frontier crafts. Antique vehicle enthusiasts had a variety of equipment on display ranging from steam engines and tractors to Model T Fords.

“It’s been a fun day,” Nelson Pioneer Farm curator Kelly Halbert said. “We’ve had a great crowd.”

Halbert said about 700 people showed up to the day-long event.

“I’ve seen a lot of smiles and the weather couldn’t be better.”

Many volunteers discussed the equipment or crafts they had on display.

John Chamra, of Rose Hill, brought his 1937 W.C. Allis Chalmers tractor to put on display in the tractor and historic farm machinery area behind Bradbury Hall.

Chamra has had the tractor since 1971. He has 11 other tractors in his collection at home.

“It’s a disease,” he quipped.

Just east of the White Barn, several volunteers had their crafts on display.

Detroit Sly and his wife, Brianne, traveled from Burlington to put their puzzles, toys and furniture they had made with a scroll saw on display.

The saw works like a sewing machine, Detroit said. “We’ve been doing it for about three years,” he added.

Detroit said it takes him about an hour to make a puzzle for adults and about 20 minutes to make puzzles for children.

Why did they get into making wooden toys and puzzles?

“Our children kept fighting over toys. I started making copies,” Detroit said.

Detroit said they have been going to craft shows to display their work.

“We love coming to events like this,” Brianne added.

Nearby, Milton Vos set up his rope-making tools and rope displays.

Vos, of Peoria, Iowa, has been making rope for 25 years.

“This is my 25th year here,” he said Saturday morning.

Vos said a friend asked him in 1988 to help him make rope, and he has been doing it ever since.

“It’s a fairly easy craft,” he said. You just need a rope maker, stand and sisal twine, he added.

“I can make them in less than 4 minutes for an 8 foot rope,” he said. The rope is either a half-inch or five-eighths inch thick, he added.

Vos said he has held rope-making demonstrations in events in Knoxville, Pella, the Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Oskaloosa and Prairie City.

North of the White Barn, Dennis Hasselman, of Ottumwa, was getting a steam engine fired up for the day.

Hasselman maintains the Woods Brothers steam engine that powers a threshing machine volunteers use to thresh oats on the farm.

Hasselman has been maintaining the steam engine for the past five to six years.

“It takes a lot to get it ready,” he said. “It’s an all-day project.”

The steam engine was made in Des Moines, Hasselman said. It can burn either wood or coal, he added.

Hasselman said he needs to have a pressure level of between 100 and 125 psi built up in the steam engine to thresh oats.

Hasselman said steam engine maintenance is something his grandfather taught him, and it is something he has always done.

On the west side of the White Barn, a row of Model Ts were on display.

Mike and Tammie Fortney, of Oskaloosa, had their 1917 Ford Model T truck in the lineup.

“This is our fourth year” at the Fall Festival, Mike said.

What does he like about restoring vintage vehicles?

“How much different it is compared to the new stuff,” he said.

Mike said they have put about a year’s worth of work and maintenance into their Model T.

Mike said they have entered the truck in various car shows and they have won Best of Show at a Bloomfield car show. It was an all-Ford show, he added.

The people who had vintage vehicles on display got their vehicles going for a Vintage Machinery Parade in the afternoon. A local Boy Scout troop formed the vanguard with the American flag while the owners of Model Ts on display led a group of farm tractors on a parade through the Nelson Pioneer Farm grounds.

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