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Midwest Old Threshers Reunion – where memories are made

I think its time for a new pair shoes.

The soles of my old shoes are worn down, and the stitches (what’s left of them) are filled with dirt and dust residue from my recent trip to the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in Mount Pleasant, Sept. 3-7.

Spending five days walking around the reunion grounds is enough of a reason to buy a new pair shoes. The roads are covered with dirt and dust as thick as a concrete sidewalk. It gets all over your clothes, in your hair and places I chose not to mention in this column. Funny thing is – I love the place.

The dirt, the dust, the old tractors, the entertainment, the people, the food and the powerful steam engines that fill the grounds are just a few of the things I enjoy.

Debbie and I attended the reunion for a third time in as many years to work on and to promote our Old Threshers book, which was released three days before the 2008 reunion.

Making the book was fun. As Debbie always says in referring to our books, “It doesn’t feel like work to us.”

There were a lot of folks who came by our table in Museum A near the bookstore to look at the book, ask questions, seek our autographs and to visit. We met one lady whose daughter was pictured in the Sweet 16 section of our book. She talked with us, bought a book and then invited us to stay at her home if we were ever around the St. Louis area. The next fellow that came along was just as friendly, but not near as inviting as he told us in great detail about all the murders in Iowa that he remembered. You just never know what people are going to say. One minute you are smiling and the next minute you want to go home and lock the door.

It wasn’t all work this time. We had a chance to catch a few winks of sleep in the afternoon, search for hidden treasures at the large craft and antique show on the Mount Pleasant Square, and enjoy the nightlife on the Old Threshers grounds.

We stopped briefly to see and hear Mel Tillis, who was the entertainment on Thursday. The near capacity crowd kept us from finding a seat and staying longer. We heard he stayed late after the show to meet those who wanted to chat with him.

Friday night was a bit wild and crazy as we attended the Heidi Newfield concert. Newfield is the former lead singer of the country band Trick Pony. She’s working hard to promote her solo debut album and put on a high-energy show, ending with the hit “Johnny and June.” Afterwards, Newfield signed autographs for hours and Debbie slipped into between the crowd and the state troopers to snap a photo of Newfield with her cell phone. That’s a side of Debbie I’ve heard about, but hadn’t witnessed until that evening. Debbie admitted after the show that she learned how to “get the picture” while attending the many concerts at the Iowa State Fair.

Saturday, Phil Vasser dropped by, and so did we. Sunday was a great show with Restless Heart followed by a power-packed hour with Collin Raye. His merchandise tabled consisted of a handful of key chains and 75 CDs. The CDs came with the promise of meeting Raye backstage for an autograph and were quickly scooped up at $20 a pop.

I’m in the wrong line of business. We waited until nearly midnight for our sister-in-law to get through the line, and she was one of the first 10 people to meet him. I really liked his 1994 hit “That’s My Story (and I’m Sticking to It).” His encore consisted of the rocking Joe Walsh tune “Rocky Mountain Way.”

We had the pleasure of spending some of the reunion with family members including our nephews – Gavin, 6, Sawyer, 5, and Peyton, 1.5 and growing. Those boys love the reunion, especially the train and the gun-toting bad guys in the North Village.

We found some of the most awesome wooden farm toys at one of the craft tables on the grounds and the boys are still enjoying them. Hopefully they will enjoy them for several years.

The highlight of the reunion for me, outside of spending time with Debbie, was seeing the spark show. I’ve heard about it, but seeing it for the first time was awesome. Several of the steam engines line up in an area on the west side of the grounds at around 9 p.m. The steam engine owners produce the sparks by placing sawdust in the boiler firebox. What follows is a spew of sparks 15 foot or more into the night air, with three of them going at the same time. I watched the show on both Saturday and Sunday, slipping away from the concerts to witness the event. I was able to make a few nice photos of the spark show. One in particular is worthy of a nice print and frame.

We are thankful to Jeff for taking the camper to the reunion for us, and Carole for allowing us to use it. The reunion wouldn’t be the same without their help.

The whole family is looking forward to returning to the reunion in 2010. In the meantime, always remember that “Good Things are Happening.”

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