One of Rock County’s longest running events roared back in 2021 after an off-year due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the Rock River Thresheree saw around 15,000 people filter through the show grounds outside of Edgerton, organizers said.
The Thresheree was held Friday through Monday, and, as always, it featured tractors, along with assorted other agriculture equipment and techniques, with this year’s featured exhibitions focused on steam-powered equipment.
Families gathered to watch demonstrations of all kinds, from blacksmithing, coal-powered sawmill operations, and sorghum making, as kids of all ages took the popular train ride around the grounds. Each afternoon, crowds gathered for the Parade of Power that put on display many of the antique machines that were operating as if they were new and ready to toil.
Standing next to a massive log hauler fitted with waist-high treads and a boiler hissing with steam, volunteer operator Paul Ehlinger spent his days at the Thresheree showing off the Phoenix Log Hauler from 1911.
Ehlinger and a host of other volunteers work year-round to maintain the last-known operating log hauler of its kind in North America, and he added its one of just three still able to be operated worldwide.
The hauler was used by the Jones Lumber Company based in Wabeno, Wisconsin before being decommissioned in 1929 and then donated to the town where it remained until 1963. In 1966, the hauler was certified and restored and it’s been inspected every year since.
“It’s nice to see people really enjoy it,” Ehlinger said. “I am all about history. It’s your past and you have to preserve it. We have to get younger generations interested in this because we need to carry on that legacy. I want to do this because of the heritage behind it.”
In its time, the log hauler would be sent deep into Wisconsin’s logging areas on ice roads as crews would use the massive machine to reach parts unable to be accessed by horse-drawn sleigh carriers.
Over the years, Ehlinger said he’s helped other volunteers replace various aspects of the antique machine, from rebuilding the tread’s roller system and reinforcing the hauler’s boiler.
“It takes a lot of maintenance, cleaning and other types of repairs,” Ehlinger said. “I have always had a passion for it. Heritage is what it’s all about.”
The Thresheree is one of Rock County’s longest running annual events, and organizers said seeing large crowds after the canceled 2020 show was special.
“The thing about this place is that it’s called a reunion for a reason,” said Thresheree President Todd Ligman. “Everyone gets out here and everyone is really happy to be back out and together again. So much of it is about tradition. Their families come out every year.”