BERRYVILLE — An exhibition this weekend will help people understand what farming was like many years ago and let them see antiquated technology up close.
The Pageant of Steam and Gas Show will be held Friday through Sunday at the Clarke County Fairgrounds on West Main Street, across from Chet Hobert Park. The annual event, sponsored by the Shenandoah Valley Steam & Gas Engine Association (SVSGEA), returns this year after being cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re extremely excited” to be able to resume it this year, said association President Rick Custer. He mentioned that he’s received many phone calls from past attendees inquiring about whether it’s being held.
Each year, the exhibition attracts between 3,000 and 6,000 visitors, Custer said.
“There’s a lot of interest in it this year,” he said. “It should be well-attended.”
According to its website, the SVSGEA’s mission is to promote preservation and restoration of antique and vintage steam and gas engines, especially those pertaining to vintage farm tractors and equipment.
To be considered an antique, an item usually must be at least 100 years old. Antiquities experts generally refer to items of historical significance that are between 20 and 100 years old are being vintage.
No matter when tools and equipment were made, farming decades ago was a lot harder than it is now. Technology developed over the years has made it easier, or at least made it require fewer people for tasks.
“A tremendous amount of physical labor went on,” Custer recalled. Now, “what’s normally done by one or two people, back 50 or 100 years ago, it would have taken a dozen.”
Threshing, or separating grains from plants, is an example he mentioned.
An assortment of antique and/or restored farm equipment, including devices powered by steam or gas, will be on display at the exhibition. Some will be demonstrated.
Visitors also will see demonstrations of various household-type items from yesteryear, such as gas-powered Maytag washing machines, rotary and self-propelled lawnmowers, and restored antique lawn and garden equipment.
Special attractions will include a working steam-powered, belt-driven saw mill, a belt-driven threshing machine and hay baler and a vintage tractor parade.
Many antique vehicles will be on display, including pickup trucks, fire trucks, dump trucks, wreckers and over-the-road truck tractors.
A flea market will include vendors selling hard-to-find parts for old engines and equipment, plus new and used tools, T-shirts, ball caps, antique collectibles, crafts and leather items. An opportunity for visitors to sell or swap tractors, equipment and parts will be provided.
An outdoor auction will be held Saturday morning. Country/rock music will be performed Saturday night by Bryan Shepherd and the Allen Boyd Band.
Kiddie Pedal Tractor Pulls will be held at 2 p.m. daily. A regular tractor pull will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday. A horse pull is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, before the music starts, and a farm stock tractor pull will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Other attractions will include an old-time blacksmith’s shop, a children’s barrel train ride and, on Sunday morning, a Christian worship service.
Food vendors will sell numerous types of treats, including burgers, hot dogs, fries, Italian sausages, chicken, roast beef, barbecue, ice cream, funnel cakes and snow cones.
Admission will be $7 on Friday and Saturday and $5 on Sunday. Children under 12 will be admitted for free. All events are weather-permitting. Basic camping facilities will be available.
More information about the event is on the association’s website at www.svsgea.org.
Farming has long been the mainstay of Clarke County’s economy. Many of its residents remember seeing — if not using — the types of equipment that the exhibition will feature. They would like to see it again and help their children and other young people learn about it, Custer said.
Years ago, “it was really hard work,” he said. “But we did it, we all got along and helped each other.”