The Butterfield Threshermen’s Association presented the 53rd Annual Threshing Bee this past weekend at Voss Park.
The ‘51 John Deere tractor featured this year appeared on the Bee button in memory of John Spitzner of St. James.128 John Deere tractors were registered along with 15 plows ranging from 1900 to 1950, three corn pickers, three corn shellers, three subsoilers, a manure spreader, a corn planter, and a miniature model G replica. Dick Neyerf rode the miniature replica during the equipment parade.
Bee goers experienced over 250 pieces of machinery, including construction equipment from years ago, during the equipment parade on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Demonstrations of the equipment were ongoing on both days.
Visitors watched threshing done by a 32” Minneapolis previously owned by the late Arvid Laingen and operated by the Harris family and a 36” Minneapolis owned and operated by Jim Naseman of Madelia. Naseman’s 1920 Minneapolis 28-h.p. wood fueled steamer was one of the antique tractors powering the threshing machines. It also entertained the tractor pull audience with a spark show on Friday.
Larger wood cutting took place at the saw mill on the west side of the grounds. The team consisted of Adrian family members, neighbors, and area residents. Many of the members have been cutting together since the early 2000s.
Ten acres of ground were set aside for tractor and horse plowing demonstrations during mornings and early afternoons. The Saturday night’s storm that collapsed a tree and caused a gas leak in Butterfield also complicated Sunday’s plow. David and Betty Mack of rural Sleepy Eye demonstrated with their crossbred horses and one bottom plow in the rough conditions. They wished they could bring back Saturday.
“We usually don’t plow when it’s this sticky,” said Betty.
“Conditions are so wet,” said David. “This just isn’t a good view of it.”
David apologized to visitors, and they still responded with positive comments on his plowing.
There were plenty more demonstrations and machinery in action. Under Voss' shaded area were various gas engines. A little further north the Iron Pour happened Saturday afternoon and the miniature sawmill on Sunday.
The weekend long live musical entertainment began Friday evening. The variety of groups that took the stage included Karen Hiebert, Bailey and Shelby Haseman of St. James, Figuring It Out of Bemidji, King Wilkie’s Dream, Kingery Family, Romsdahls and Quirings, Sean Benz of Windom, The Bee Kays from Martin County, Wide Load, and Zoey Smith, a St. James native.
Displays at Engine House No. 1 included toy machinery, collected by Brad Zender of Comfrey since 1974. Sandi Benge of Odin demonstrated rug making. The Bee book shop was hosted by Darlene Ebbenga and stood across Ted Janze’s 7,000 pen collection. Also, for up to 45 years, Leota Quiring-Hall of rural Mt. Lake has brought corn husk dolls to the Bee and was willing to share how it’s done.
“First thing you gotta do is pick corn by hand,” said Hall. “Then you gotta shuck it. Then you gotta dry it in a gunny sack. Then when you get ready to make the dolls, if you want to color, then you have to dye it.”
Hall uses Rit dye. She also picks the material for the hair at a different time or else it’ll blow away. Then she decides what she wants her character to do.
“Is she going to pick flowers or she gonna turn butter?” asked Hall. “Or is she going to be a school teacher or what she going to do? Oh, the possibilities are endless.”
Hall tries not to waste any material because she picks it all by hand. This allows her to add plenty of small details, like her fisherman having a fish at the end of his line.
After decades of crafting, her mind is still working all the time, but she doesn’t consider her corn husk dolls “work” at all.
New displays at Engine House No. 1 included her daughter, Cindy’s leatherwork, her grandson Jeremy’s metal work, taxidermy projects by Ray Petterson of Butterfield, a garden from the 4-Hers and women of Butterfield, Maggie Schwab of New Ulm demonstrating chair caning, bee keeper Terry Bartsch of Delft, artwork by Shelby Haseman, and plenty more.
Visitors also experienced a walking tour through Pioneer Town, where local history flourishes through long-lived buildings and original artifacts. The Children’s barnyard with animals gathered by Eldon Quiring, included an antique 1985 incubator. While the Slaalien livery barn depicts Hans Slaalien’s life in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the barn included bulletin boards capturing Bee memories at the barn. The teacher at the district 12 school taught vintage era school art. Walt’s Barbershop, Hollenitsch Drug Store, General Store, Pete’s harness Shop, the Pioneer Church, and the Mennonite house possessed merchandise from long ago. Bee goers witnessed how early settlers created by creating themselves at the rope making spot under the Voss Park trees where the Koenig Brothers have had the same spot for over 30 years. Lefses, the Norwegian treat, were made fresh and sold for a dime under the trees, too, and other Koenig family members of Darfur made the log cabin their home, cooking a chicken dinner on Sunday. On that same day, some of the weekend hosts at the summer kitchen, Emily, Haley, Dylan, Macy, and Owen Burkhols of Mankato, baked hand pies. The work portion of Pioneer Town included the blacksmith shop, the veneer machine, broom making, copying lathe, and the Advocate print shop.
The Tuberg homestead, more than 145 years old, was hosted by Andrew Tuberg’s great-great-grandsons, Dennis, Wayne, and Al Johnson. Dennis displayed jewelry his great-great-grandfather had gifted his great-great-grandmother, made out of human hair. This form of jewelry was trendy in the Victorian era. Wayne and Al reminisced about spending nights at the homestead when they were kids.
“It was like a camping trip,” said Wayne.
Al and Wayne hope the younger generation of their family are as interested in the homestead as they’ve been. Their mother, Geraldine, also known as Geri, hadn’t been to the homestead in years. This weekend she sat in the shade on the homestead’s front porch.
“This place is still here because of them,” she pointed towards the front door where her sons sat inside, sharing their family history with Bee goers. She shrugged and slightly shook her head, “I don’t know.” She’s not sure if the homestead will continue to stand after her children because her grandchildren are still fairly young.
Another tender moment happened at the end of the outdoor ecumenical worship service on Sunday morning. Karen Hiebert announced Howard Madson, “a staple of the Threshing Bee,” would be moving to Texas. After 12 years of serving as president of the Threshermen's Association, the position has been turned over to Mike Hall.
“Through that I’m glad,” said Madson. “But it was wonderful to see this crowd here this morning after what we went through [with the storm] last night. So, thank all of you."
The weekend gradually came to an end with a quieting buzz after the tractor parade on Sunday as visitors ordered their last dinner or last scoop of homemade ice cream.
Save next year’s 54th Annual Butterfield Threshing Bee dates: Saturday, August 15, and Sunday, August 16.