Heat fails to dampen enthusiasm of Thresher visitors
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
It was hot and it was humid.
But weather aside, vendors and people milling around the Midwest Old Threshers grounds Thursday afternoon were smiling more often than not.
Jerry Ficke of Milford, Neb., was in one of the hottest areas, running a steam engine. A glance at the thermometer above Ficke’s engine showed 110 degrees.
He wasn’t complaining, though, in fact he said his duty provides a welcome respite from his paying job as an electronic technician in Lincoln, Neb.
“Coming here each year and getting dirty, sweaty and greasy is a nice change of pace from my air-conditioned office,” he said, showing very little of the aforementioned sweat. “It is 110 in here, but some people’s bodies are just designed to take it.”
Ficke has been running one of the steam engines for 20 years but has coming to the show for over 40 (since 1972). “It is just something you love to do and this is the only place in the world I can do it (running a steam engine). This is the only place in the world I can come and play with these.”
His wife, though, doesn’t have the body to take all the heat, he explained, relating that she is back in the air-conditioned camper.
The Nebraskan will be one of several volunteers being recognized today.
The Frickes arrived last Friday and he said Old Threshers has more or less become a way of life from the family, including the four children.
“We plan to keep coming back as long as possible,” he continued. “Our children don’t think it can be summer without this. In fact, two of my children just started new jobs and are taking the day off without pay today just to spend time here.”
“Mr. Buzz” (all the identification the vendor would give) of Burlington was selling Christmas trinkets, a cooling though on a hot day, in Museum B. He said this is his 10th Old Threshers and said his Thursday was like most Thursdays at the reunion.
“It is slow, but it is the opening day. It is a little tepid out there,” he chuckled.
Traffic was better Thursday morning, he reported, but he knows there will be more traffic — and buyers — in the days ahead.
“I grew up in sales, so I know it is going to improve,” he assessed. “You just need people to come past with the sparkle in their eye — the look of a buyer.”
Mr. Buzz said he enjoys his time at Old Threshers. “These are really short days — just 13 hours. Isn’t that a normal work day?” he chuckled.
Ralph Nedrow of Cedar Rapids, a conductor with Midwest Central Railroad, was holding his three-year-old granddaughter, Haylee Nedrow, who was doing her best to block the sound of the train whistle by covering her ears.
Nedrow has been working with Midwest Central for 37 years and his son, Logan, caught the bug a while ago as is in his 19th year as a fireman on the train, training to become an engineer. Logan Nedrow is also on the Midwest Central Board of Directors.
The elder Nedrow said he has worked this long “because I enjoy doing it.”
A few paces to the south, Beth Cornect is an Old Thresher’s rookie, spending her first year selling massage units. The Dayton, Ohio, resident said she was at Old Threshers “because my boss sent me.”
Arriving in Mt. Pleasant last night, Cornect knew what to expect, at least weatherwise. “I looked up the weather before coming and knew it would be hot.”
Trying to keep her cool in Museum A, aided by a fan, she said the weather was bearable. “Nobody here is cool, but the fan helps and I just drink a lot of ice tea.”
Her first day at the event also brought a pleasant surprise. “Business has actually been pretty good,” she smiled.
Alicia Cram of Charlotte was shielding herself from the hot sun with an umbrella as she pushed her seven-month daughter Roslyn Grimm along the rows of tractors and steam engines.
It was Cram’s first visit to Old Threshers. She said she came because her boyfriend helps set up some of the equipment.
She was enjoying it.
“I think it is awesome, there is really a lot to do here and everybody is so friendly,” she said, summing up her experience in a nutshell.
Sweet 16 contestants have to be nice — that is part of the judging criteria. Jasmine Craff of Mt. Pleasant, however, was super bubbly on Thursday.
“This has just been amazing,” she said as she worked a souvenir stand in Museum A. “I love this experience. You get to meet a lot of new people which is great.”
The teen, however, is not a newcomer to the event, having worked for her Girl Scout troop at the Pancake House in years past.
“I just like it out here,” said Harold Huettmann of Durant, summing up the viewpoints of many. Huettman was sitting in a motorized cart, being pulled by his wife.
He said it was his ninth visit to the reunion, explaining that he was trying to stay inside as much as possible to beat the heat.
“I like it every year I come, I just enjoy everything about it,” he said, sounding more like a Chamber of Commerce executive than a reunion visitor.
There may not be a lot of relief from the heat in sight, at least not today as the forecast is for a high of 99. There is light at the end of the tunnel, though. The weather will be turning cooler beginning Monday, but not in time for the majority of the reunion.