AE&TA to hold Fall Harvest Days Sept. 18-20

Claudia Loucks
A log is in place in the sawmill ready for Lowell Gramling, Colona, to present a demonstration of how the log becomes lumber at the Fall Harvest Days planned forFriday, through Sunday, Sept. 18-20, by the Antique Engine & Tractor Association. Photo by Claudia Loucks

Because of the restrictions in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the annual events can’t take place as we know them, but they can happen in a somewhat different manner. Such is the case of the working farm show hosted each year by the Antique Engine & Tractor Association, but instead AE&TA members are hosting Fall Harvest Days Friday, Sept. 18, Saturday, Sept. 19, and Sunday, Sept. 20.

One of the most popular spots to visit is the sawmill and those demonstrations will take place this year with certain guidelines.

Often people wait in line for the demonstrations in the building, constructed when the club moved to its own home, on Illinois Rt. 92.

The guidelines in place due to the pandemic have changed the way people will be able to watch the demonstrations as no one will be allowed in the saw mill building. People will be able to see the demonstrations from both ends and from the east side of the building while maintaining social distancing.

Lowell Gramling, Colona, has been in charge of the sawing demonstrations at each year’s show.

Gramling is experienced in the trade as he previously did his own sawing for furniture he made as a hobby.

“I used to make a lot of furniture,” he said. “I would cut down walnut trees and take them to a sawmill in Kewanee to have them cut.”

He said he became tired of hauling the logs to Kewanee, paying to have them cut and then bringing them back to his home in Colona.

“When I retired from John Deere n 1986, I went looking for my own sawmill,” Gramling said…He purchased one and set it up at his rural Colona home.

“It was a hobby for me,” he said and added that he quit “sawing” about 20 years ago.

Even though he was no longer using the saw, his interest in sawmills remained. A friend invited him to the AE&TA show when it was held outside of Atkinson, and Gramling said he wanted to see the sawmill operation.

“When we got there, the sawmill had just shut down,” he said. “My friend encouraged me to find out what the problem was and I did find out. The saw was not sawing correctly. I told the guy there that 99 percent of the problem could be traced to the teeth of the saw they were using. They had a 54-inch blade with worn out teeth.”

“I talked to Tom Hitzhusen (AE&TA member) about it and the next year I joined the Association,” Gramling said, admitting he joined the group so he could run the sawmill.”

“I ran the sawmill at that show about 15 years ago and we had a big crowd in the building. The board couldn’t believe the number of people.”

The saw mill dates back to the early 1900’s but Gramling said, “It takes tender love and care to keep it running.”

Gramling doesn’t just saw the logs in his demonstrations. He also presents a program on the sawmill and the different types of wood used.

He said the logs used in the sawmill are donated for each year’s working farm show. The types of wood used range from cherry and oak to walnut and pine.

“We try to present demonstrations each morning and each afternoon of the show,” he said.

Most of the wood is donated back to the AE&TA and used to build shelves in some of the buildings and for repairs.

Gramling is referred to as the “sawyer” as the operator of the sawmill demonstrations…”I am responsible for everything that happens in that building,” he said. The other people involved in the workings of the sawmill are the sawyer’s helpers.

“One of the men helps put the logs on the carriage and watches the crowd as a safety measure,” Gramling said. “Each log weighs from 1,000 to 1,500 pounds, depending on the type of wood. There are usually four volunteers who help with the process.”

Two of the volunteers take the slab (bark) and the lumber away form the mill and Gramling said it is not referred to as “lumber” until it is sawed. He also said nothing is thrown away as the slabs of wood are cut up into small pieces and used to power the steam engines at the show.

An important part of the sawmill show is the education it provides.


Gate fees for this year’s show are $5 daily with children 12 and younger free; golf carts and side-by-sides are $5 daily. There are no weekend passes and activities may change as mandated by the State or Federal authorities.

AE&TA president Phil Jordan said up until March of this year AE&TA members were planning for the 59 th annual Working Farm Show.

“We were ‘on hold’ from March with plans for the show, and we have always thought we would do something, but some of the activities with the three-day show just can’t be offered and still maintain social distancing and other mandates involved with COVID-19.”

“We will be using the ‘people movers’ at the Fall Harvest Days this year to shuttle visitors around on the show grounds, and the younger kids will still have the opportunity to see how farm equipment was used years ago,” Jordan said.

“We will not have a featured tractor this year and we wouldn’t be able to have the daily parade because there are just too many people involved with that,” he said, and listed other events that couldn’t be arranged for this year, including the Entertainment Tent, The Kids Zone, exhibitor bags and buttons.

“Demonstrations in the blacksmith shop and in the saw will take place and we will have those set up in observation areas,” Jordan said. “We will not have bleachers so we can practice social distancing and people will still be able to see the demonstrations.”

Jordan said, “We just don’t know how all of this will come together and in order to give people the full benefit of the show, we are going to postpone featuring the Minneapolis Moline tractors and related equipment until the 2021 show next September.”

“This year we are featuring all brands of tractors and equipment from the 1900’s to the 1970’s,” he said.

Those planning to attend this year’s Fall Harvest Days are welcome to take their tractors to the show grounds for the display.

The event will feature:

- train rides

- Demonstrations in the sawmill and blacksmith shops.

-plowing and tillage.


-horse drawn equipment

-baling straw.

-Lawn and Garden Displays and Hit & Miss Engines.

-Potato digging and Indian corn harvesting.

-cane sorghum pressing.

-food and ice cream vendors.

-craft vendors.