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Basking in the Harvest fun: Legacy celebrates 19th festival
September 24, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen - Ron Reifschneider stands on an International Harvester 40 HP tractor, which turns the belt of a Keck Gonnerman, a machine used to thresh hay. He said if the tractor ran on steam, he’d be called an engineer.

Ever wonder how farmers worked 100 years ago?

Visitors to the Farm and Ranch Museum found out this past weekend at the Legacy of the Plains Museum’s 19th annual Harvest Festival.

FARM volunteers showed off historic farming equipment, some of it pulled by horses, for demonstrations with this year’s featured crop – corn.

Visitors, who toured the grounds, watched how to thresh hay, and harvest corn − from picking and husking, to binding, hauling, shelling and grading. They also brought buckets and shopping bags to fill with potatoes picked from a nearby field. Children played on pedal tractors, took barrel train rides, and frolicked on a hay bale fort. Entire families took rides in old horse drawn carriages and vintage automobiles, and wandered through the cornfield maze, or stopped by to look at antique farm machinery in the tractor barn.

“Settlers grew a lot of corn in the homestead days, which was mostly fed to their cattle,” said volunteer Jack Preston, about the star crop of the Harvest Festival. “The area has never been much of an exporter of corn, but most of it grown locally is still used to feed cattle. Some of it also goes to ethanol production.”
Preston said corn has a special connection to the museum. The first implement they received was a two-row corn picker manufactured by Allis-Chalmers. Volunteers demonstrated how it was used at the Harvest Festival.
The festival also featured hay rides, blacksmithing demonstrations, and getting to see the museum’s small herd of longhorn cattle. Rides were given on some of the other animals, including the Belgian horses, and mules.

“We’re going to demonstrate everything that goes into corn harvesting, except making corn whiskey,” Preston said.

Offering some trivia, Preston said there are still national corn husking contests scheduled in Nebraska. In the 1930s and 1940s, some of the events drew up to 10,000 spectators.

A parade of tractors amazed visitors at noon on both days. Others checked out the skills of bonnet makers.

Among food vendors, volunteers served up coffee from a cowboy campfire, and music was provided by the Green Valley Homesteaders.

The Legacy of the Plains Museum is west of Gering on the Old Oregon Trail, heading toward the Scotts Bluff National Monument.

For more information, visit legacyoftheplains.org.

Photo by Lisa Betz/Gering Citizen - Seven-year-old Jazzmyne Hardin of Morrill frolics on stacks of hay bales with Dawson Elsen, 8, of Gering.

Photo by Lisa Betz/Gering Citizen - Brothers from Scottsbluff, Nathan Holloway, 13, Matthew Holloway, 18, and Chad Conklin, 48, of Melbeta, use pitchforks to feed the Keck Gonnerman, a machine used in the late 1940s and early 1950s to thresh grain from straw.
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