35th annual Meriden threshing show under way this weekend.
by Clarke Davis
It’s not the most prominent thing on the show bill, but new restrooms at Cottonwood Station is the latest improvement.
The 35th annual threshing show will get under way this weekend at the pioneer village near Meriden, sponsored by the Meriden Antique Engine and Threshers Association.
Association President Jess Noll reports that most of the preliminary work is done. Three loads of wheat bundles are sitting in the barn ready for the threshing machine and a crew was expected to show up last weekend to complete the restrooms.
“Anyone who knew how bad those old restrooms were will appreciate the new ones,” Noll said.
Electricians and plumbers were expected over the weekend to install the facilities and bring water and lights to the new 24-by-36-foot building. It was constructed out of cottonwood boards sawed at the association’s Thick and Thin sawmill during previous shows.
The building will have a metal interior so the building can be power washed and kept clean. Both the men’s and women’s sides have stalls for the handicapped and are equipped with showers.
The showers are handy for the campers who spend nearly a week on the grounds.
“We probably won’t have siding on the outside yet, but the facilities will be operational,” Noll said.
The association members have all the skills needed to build and complete projects of this sort, he said.
Noll follows Merlyn Mahoney, who was president of the association for six or seven years. Mahoney has had a knee replacement, but is expected to retain the microphone at the speaker’s stand.
“He’s the ‘Voice of Meriden’,” Noll said.
Threshing wheat will open the show at 10 a.m. Friday and Noll laments the loss of the steam engines that once were such a big attraction at threshing shows.
“A lot of nostalgia surrounds the steam engines,” he said.
Jess’s brother, Andy Noll, was certified to operate a steam engine before he had a driver’s license.
“Those machines are nearly 100 years old now and it costs too much to replace the flue and fireboxes,” he said. “The boilers are really expensive and one would have to be independently wealthy to have one in show condition.”
A steam engine exploded at an Ohio fair in 2001 that killed four and injured nearly 40 people. That pretty much ended the practice of displaying operational steam engines at local shows.
The biggest attraction today is tractor pulls and Meriden has them. Garden tractor pulls are held Friday evening and Sunday afternoon and a children’s pull Saturday afternoon. The antique and classic tractor pull starts at 5 p.m. Saturday and lasts until after midnight.
“We moved it to late afternoon to escape the heat,” Noll said.
Country music bands, Sierra and Triple Shot, will perform Friday and Saturday nights. Church services will be held in the Bloomfield Church at 9 a.m. Sunday.
The last few years have been spent moving and making improvements to the church. Noll said some interior work is still needed, but the exterior is complete.
Besides the list of events on the show bill, the entire village comes alive and all the buildings are opened up to visitors. Jolene Bickel heads up the kitchen where visitors can get a thresher’s meal or short orders.
A barbed wire collection has been donated to the association by the Rodecap family and will be on display in the wheelwright building.
Noll said the association has a lot of active members all of whom have their specialties. Kathy Petesch has barrels of flowers throughout the grounds and Orville Calhoun keeps the grounds mowed.
Storekeepers include Gary Bowen and Bob Hjetland at the flour mill, June Bowen at the general store, Norm Davis in the blacksmith shop, Steve Johnson in the print shop, Linda Johnson at the log cabin, Jim Noll at the sawmill, Jerry McGrath and son, D.J., oversee the threshing, Keith Jackson oversees the blacksmith shop and adjacent buildings, Dennis Knudsen heads up the baling crew, Jessica Rodecap directs the tractor pull, and Jess Noll is in charge of the flea market.
“It takes a village to get this done,” he said.
Bill Bickel provided the wheat, Noll said, and he was operating a modern combine in the field alongside a dozen association members who were pulling a binder — a separation of about 80 years in time.
Noll, 33, is a survey technician with CP Engineers and Land Surveyors. He is one of the younger members, but has a 20-year history with Cottonwood Station.
He was about 13 when he and his brother were introduced to the village by their father, Jim Noll, a carpenter and owner of Noll Wood Shed at Nortonville. His grandfather, the late Leonard Noll, was the Nortonville blacksmith.
“If Dad didn’t have something for us to do, Keith Jackson put us to work,” he said. “He let us drive his F-12 Farmall, if we could start it that is.”
Jess and his fiancée, Stacey Farrar, have not set the date, but are considering wedding plans that include the church at Cottonwood Station and a barn dance. He has one daughter, Kaylee, 6, and she has three children, one grown daughter, Danielle Stang, and two still at home, Rylie, 14, and Shawn, 17.
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