Why do they keep returning? OT attracts for many reasons
By TRISHA PHELPS
Mt. Pleasant News
With an event that draws tens of thousands of people annually to Mt. Pleasant, many people from many places have several different reasons to return to Old Threshers Reunion each year.
John and Debbie Eckles, Council Bluffs, first heard of Old Threshers when Debbie picked up a brochure about the reunion at an antique market in southwest Iowa and have been coming every year since for a total of three years.
“We always come on a Saturday and Sunday and the last two years it rained, so we just wanted to come one year that it didn’t rain,” John Eckles joked.
“Actually, we just fell in love with it,” corrected Debbie Eckles. “He loves old tractors, old machines, old anything. We just love it here.”
While John’s favorite part is the machinery, the couple still enjoys touring the grounds and seeing what all that the reunion has to offer.
“We have come here for three years and we still haven’t seen all of it,” said Debbie Eckles.
Cindy Dorrell, Mt. Pleasant, is one of the musicians at the Log Village and has been coming to Old Threshers for 34 years.
“Initially, the advisor asked if I could bring my band down here on Sunday afternoons, so I started by doing that in the park,” said Dorrell of her beginnings at the reunion.
“Eventually I got a dulcimer, and I asked if I got a long skirt and learned how to play if I could play down here,” said Dorrell. “So I did, and then I started bringing down fiddlers from Winfield and that is how I got started.”
Dorrell noted that she doesn’t think of Old Threshers as a time to volunteer, but rather as a reunion for friends.
“This is a huge reunion for me,” said Dorrell. “It is a couple nights every year that a bunch of musicians can get together on a porch and make music together. We make music during the day, too.
“We have met people doing this and have created a lot of friendships with people we would have never met had it not been for the reunion,” Dorrell continued. “You can tell what it is like just sitting here. It is a big family, a big community. It isn’t just volunteers, it is a community for five days every year. There are a lot of places you can go as a family, but once you get there everyone goes off and does their own thing. But here, you can look over and see a mother and daughter cooking together, or a father and son working together in the blacksmith shop. That is pretty unique.”
As far as family ties go, Natasha Lane of Maquoketa has two very good reasons to keep returning, both her mother and father got her involved with the reunion at a young age.
“My dad is a gunslinger and my mom is a saloon girl, so it was tradition,” said Lane, who also performs in the Golden Slipper Saloon during the reunion.
“I have been coming every year since I was 10, so that has been 13 years now for me,” she noted. “When I was younger I would help with roping off the area for the gunslingers and now I’m a saloon girl. I will probably keep doing this until I can’t do it anymore.”
Lane also gets her young daughter involved in the show.
“My daughter was here, and she and my mom sang on stage together,” Lane said. “They sang ‘You are my sunshine’ and it was a really big deal to me.”
Steve Connelly of Ollie has been coming since his father brought him as a baby and has only missed four years, claiming to be at the reunion for a total of 58 years this year.
“I love it. I come for the steam engines, the gas and kerosene tractors and the small engines,” said Connelly. “I also love to ride the train. I don’t really get into the other stuff.”
Connelly remembers fondly the old days of Old Threshers.
“I have been coming since people who participated and viewed parked around the inside of what was just a track back then.
“I like to talk to the guys and get all of the nuts and bolts about what is going on with the steam engines and tractors every year,” Connelly continued. “I do appreciate that they keep the heritage up on these machines. A lot of people don’t realize, but these machines are the forgotten machines.”
Dick Wonderlich of Mt. Pleasant has only missed one year of Old Threshers, a record that is hard to beat.
“We had a tent selling buffalo sandwiches for 20 years and after that it just became a habit to come back,” said Wonderlich, who now drives the shuttle bus that hauls people from the reunion to the square.
“I drive buses the whole time, so I don’t get to see a lot of the reunion, I’d kind of like to see it all though,” said Wonderlich. “It is kind of nice to just sit and watch the people.”
Between reuniting with old friends, family traditions, a love for old machines or simply volunteering to keep things running smoothly, many people have made Old Threshers a part of their lives and will continue to do so.