Going back in time at 46th Steam Show

Posted: July 25, 2013

The Winchester Star

These are some of the steam engines that will be featured this weekend at the 2013 Pageant of Steam Show at the Clarke County Ruritan Fairgrounds. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
Wayne Godlove stands amid some of the Shenandoah Valley Steam and Gas Engine Association’s steam engines and steam-powered equipment at the Clarke County Fairgrounds. The annual show to highlight the equipment takes place this weekend.

Berryville — Walking onto the grounds of the Clarke County Ruritan Fairgrounds in Berryville this weekend will be like stepping into the past.

Organizers of the 46th annual Steam Show pride themselves on offering a respectful glimpse at times gone by with machinery long past its prime but still important, said Rick Custer, president of the Shenandoah Valley Steam and Gas Engine Association, which holds the event.

“We want to educate the public on how our ancestors had to overcome a lot of the obstacles,” said Custer, of Gerrardstown, W.Va.

The event will be held from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the fairgrounds Admission is $5 per person and free for children younger than 12.

The Steam Show celebrates the Industrial Revolution, which took place from the 18th to 19th centuries, Custer said. “Prior to that, almost all of this type of work was done by hand.”

To represent those mechanical achievements, the association will fill all of the fairgrounds with shows, demonstrations, games, music, exhibits, sales and competitions for people to watch, said Wayne Godlove, a charter member of the association, which was formed in 1967. “If people like things done the old way, there is plenty of stuff there for them to like.”

The stars of the three-day show always are the gas and steam engines on display and being used for demonstrations, Custer said.

Each show features different machines, which this year will be all makes of steam engines and the Fairbanks Morse gas engine, he said. The featured equipment is usually at the front of the parades held at noon Saturday and Sunday.

There is also a wide variety of antique tractors brought to the show and put on display, Godlove said. He likes to bring two he owns, both 1939 Generals built by Cleveland Tractor Co. His wife has a 1936 Farmall F-20 that also will be on display.

Organizers are expanding the antique truck section and trying to have more of the owners participate in the parades, which are usually well received by the crowds, Custer said.

As interesting as the machines are to just look at and poke around, organizers also like to give people an idea of the work they did and the labor they saved farmers, he said. There will be live demonstrations of a working sawmill, a shingle mill, balers, and a threshing machine all three days to show how they worked.

“I hope families will come out together — multiple generations so some of the older ones can instruct some of the younger ones on the ways they used some of this equipment and the process they went through to build America to where it is today,” he said.

Wanting to increase the appeal to different generations, organizers expanded the kiddie pedal tractor pull to all three days at 2 p.m. instead of just Sunday, he said.

In addition to the static displays, there will be competitions each day to keep the crowds entertained, he said. There will be an antique tractor pull at 6:30 p.m. Friday, a horse pull at 6 p.m. Saturday, and a mule pull and jump at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The horse pull is especially fascinating to some visitors because it is rare that “people get an opportunity to actually see horses doing some sort of work,” Custer said.

The mule jump also tends to be popular because it can have unexpected moments, Godlove said. Owners walk the animal up to a crossbar and have three minutes to get it to jump over, but occasionally the mules don’t always want to be cooperative and can “get a little balky.”

Some visitors are drawn to the Steam Show by what they might find at the consignment sale, which begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and features farm and industrial equipment, and a flea market that runs all three days, said Jane McDonald of Berryville, treasurer of the association.

While her husband, Harry, really likes looking at all the machinery, McDonald enjoys the flea market and listening to sellers “tell stories of how everything works.” The flea market is also a great place to look for older household goods, collectibles, machinery, tools, crafts and toys, she said.

Other attractions include a concert after the horse pull with music by the traditional bluegrass band Back Creek Valley Boys, a church service at 9 a.m. Sunday, an oldtime blacksmith shop, steam and gas models, and a children’s barrel train ride.

Food vendors will be on hand selling items such as barbecue chicken, steak and cheese subs, hot dogs, pizza, Italian sausage, steamed corn and ice cream. George Ireland, a member of the association, will also whip up big batches of his steam cooked bean soup, which benefits the association.

The event happens rain or shine, but organizers are hoping for shine since that makes it more likely to reach the top end of their average attendance, which can be anywhere form 3,000 to 5,000 people over the two days, Custer said. “We are very dependent on the weather.”


The 46th annual Steam Show will be held from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Clarke County Ruritan Fairgrounds in Berryville. Admission is $5 per person and free for children under 12.

For more information, go to svsgea.com.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com