By Louisa Danielson/ For the IN|fort wayne
It sounds like a lot of work, but Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation and area farmers love to put together the Salomon Farm Fall Harvest Festival. This year’s celebration of American farm traditions will be Friday and Saturday, Sept. 22 and 23.
“We’re just kind of the facilitators,” explained Kellie Adkins, the manager of outdoor recreation at Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation. Volunteers from the Tri-State Antique Tractor Club handle most of the work and enjoy showing off their vintage machines, Adkins said.
Demonstrations of threshing, husking, shredding and hay baling are just some of the activities during the festival. There are also hayrides, a farmers market, a rock crusher and animals to visit outside. “[It’s] all kinds of cool stuff that you’d never think of but that the farmers still use [here at Salomon Farm Park],” Adkins explained.
The DeKalb County Horsemen’s Association will offer wagon rides with horses and mule teams.
Salomon Farm Park is a working property that demonstrates agricultural life from the 1930s. Nine species of animals are kept on the property, and volunteer farmers work the land, harvesting hay, growing corn and using their antique tractors to get the work done. While some of those tractors are kept on the property, many more are brought to the farm just for the festival in September.
Dave Fike, who is the president of the Tri-State Antique Tractor Club, easily lists the makes of tractors that will come to the festival. “John Deere, International, Allis-Chalmers, Minneapolis-Moline, Silver King,” he said.
For the smaller visitors, there are pedal tractors that have been mounted on wheeled carts. Kids get to climb onto the tiny tractors and then get tugged around by a large tractor. Large, 50-gallon barrels with cutouts have also been mounted on wheels and linked together, forming a tot-sized train that will be pulled by a real tractor.
On Friday, Adkins explained, “We really gear it toward field trip groups.” She said “tons” of kids come for the free field trip to explore the animals, see the tractors, maybe participate in an activity, and explore the rural side of Indiana life.
Visitors are encouraged to take home a free ear of corn or some of the other grains that are processed. “You can give it to your squirrels the next day,” Fike explained. The corn, oats and wheat are dry and ready set out on the porch to attract wildlife.
Setup for the festival begins on Thursday, when everything is rolled out of the barn and the machinery is set up for demonstrating. Adkins was careful to note that for every machine, there is at least one farmer next to it, to keep kids safe.
Fike said that there will probably be 25-30 tractor people looking after the big machines, and a number of others who will tend the “hit-and-miss” engines. These portable engines were used at the turn of the 20th century to pump water and to run smaller machinery on a farm.
Whether they’re there to drive tractors in the parade, or crush rocks or just run a washing machine, the volunteers from the Tri-State Antique Tractor Club are doing what they love, and the Parks and Recreation people appreciate their efforts. “They love it just as much as the Parks Department,” Adkins said.