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Published August 15 2013

39th annual Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers event offers exhibits, demonstrations

If you go

What: The 38th annual Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers show.

When: Doors open at 7 a.m.; event runs today through Sunday.

Where: the entrance to the grounds is on the east side of the north entrance to Itasca State Park in Minnesota on Highway 200.

Info: $10 per person; admission is good for all three days; children 12 and under admitted free; visit www.itascapioneerfarmers.com for more information.


CLEARWATER COUNTY, Minn. – Bryan Mesich was watching a sawmill steam engine run while chatting up a member of the Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers.

The man playfully told him, “Boy, if you were a member, you wouldn’t ask so many questions.”

Mesich joined up and is now on the board of directors. He’s also helping to restore that very same sawmill, which boasts a 340-horsepower steam engine that drives a 15-foot wheel that moves a 28-inch-wide leather belt that transfers power (eventually) to a 12-inch-wide, 44-foot saw band.

“It’s huge,” said Kerry Winkelmann, president of the Pioneer Farmers.

That’s just one of the attractions visitors will get a look at during the 38th annual Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers event today through Sunday in southern Clearwater County.

The show offers a look into what life used to be like in the area through exhibits and demonstrations.

Among the buildings on display is an old Baptist church from Osage, which dates to 1887. A 100-year-old rural schoolhouse also stands on the grounds, as does a replica of an old store, including living quarters in the back.

Old-time horsepower

The show boasts plenty of old-time horsepower.

Three sawmills will be on display at the event. Two-cycle diesel engines that were used to produce electricity at the Fosston power plant will be in operation.

Tractors will also be on display, and each day includes a tractor parade, with an old-time tractor pull set for Sunday.

Logging demonstrations will trace changes in the way the work was done, and there will be an operating blacksmith shop, demonstrations of other old-time skills and more.

There will be music, food for sale, a Sunday service, a play area for children and a small-scale railroad children can ride.

Important history

The Pioneer Farmers was incorporated in Bagley in 1976. The group was tasked with the “preservation and display of old-time, rural America, with emphasis on logging and lumber-making methods of yesteryear, grain threshing and other country-related pageantries and procedures,” according to its website.

Pioneer Farmers starting sponsoring a two-day event at the fairgrounds in Bagley, but starting in 1990, it began holding three-day events at its current location.

Winkelmann said the goal is to paint a picture of what culture was like in the area and preserve that history.

He said members are “trying to show what it was like in the area in the ’40s and ’50s.”

He believes teaching about and preserving that history is important.

“To me, history’s very important to remember.”

The weekend is also about having fun.

“We’re here for their enjoyment,” Mesich said. The event is “very family oriented, family friendly.

“If nobody enjoyed themselves, nobody would take the time to stop by the show and view it,” Mesich said. “And without the public coming to see our attractions, there’d be no way that we could fund these ongoing projects, to continue to bring in attractions and history pieces to be preserved and demonstrated.”