By Zachary Morton
For the Salisbury Post
DENTON — The 42nd Annual Southeast Old Threshers’ Reunion is under way at the Denton FarmPark.
And it’s drawing some high-profile visitors.
“I’ve been coming out here for a long, long time,” said N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Collecting and restoring old farm tractors and antiques is a big hobby of mine. I just like coming out here and seeing all the old farm machinery that helped make agriculture the number one industry in the state.”
Agriculture currently contributes $70 billion to the state’s economy.
“It’s also good to come out and talk to and be around people with similar interests,” Troxler said.
The event, which draws around 60,000 people a year, has many sights and exhibits for everyone. But the biggest draw are the tractors.
“We usually bring in over 1,000 tractors to the reunion,” said coordinator Greta Lint. “All the tractors on display must be 1965 models and earlier. Some owners have taken their time to wash and wax them. Others look like they have come straight out of the field.”
For this year’s event, there will be a daily Parade of Power, as tractor owners drive their machines around the park.
“It gives us something to do every year,” said Marlin Coughenhour of Raleigh, who was walking around with son Spenser. “We’ve been coming here for about the past five years now. We like coming out to see all the old tractors.”
Among the many demonstrations and shows at this year’s event are a dog-herding exhibition, horse and tractor pulls, and different wheat and grain threshing techniques.
Live music is bluegrass, and gospel music is featured daily. This year’s acts include Rhonda Vincent, Ronnie McDowell and Solid Foundation.
People can also take a tour on the Handy Dandy steam locomotive, which encircles the 150-acre park. Booths are also set up where owners and visitors can buy special and old parts for tractors or tools.
But what makes the reunion such a big draw every year?
“It is a family friendly event. People that grew up on farms bring the wives and kids and grandkids out to see what it was like for them to grow up. It’s also a way for husbands to drag their wives out to something they want to do,” said Lent
“But the biggest appeal is it is showing off our past that we are losing every day,” Lent said. “It gives people a chance to come out and relive what it was like to live and work in a simpler time.”
Within the park, visitors will find a little town setting that features an old-time church, general store, post office, radio museum and a working grist mill.
“I’ve been volunteering here for about 20 years. I like working with and seeing all this old machinery,” said Dewayne Parsons from West End in Moore County, who is helping run the mill.
“I like getting together with and seeing people that have the same interest of seeing how things were done a long time ago. I only get to see some of these people about once a year, so it just brings us together,” he said. “Probably my favorite thing to see here are the old saw mills and the steam engine tractors.”
“This is our fifth year coming out here,” said Larry Smith of Angier. “It gives you something to do. It takes you back in time.”
His wife, Betty, also likes that it is a family friendly event.
“There’s no alcohol served here. It’s just a good family event,” she said. “Plus, I like to see the herding dogs do their round-up routine.”
Sarah Smith, the 2011 Threshers Pageant queen is amazed at how the event helps to preserve the legacy of a simpler time.
“This event brings together so many people from different parts of the state, as well as other states,” she said. “I’m very proud to have been able the represent the Old Threshers for this past year.”
The event continues through Wednesday, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Admission for this year’s event is $14 for adults and $6 for children under 12. Preschoolers are free. More information can be found at www.farmpark.com or by calling 336-859-2755.
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