The Pawnee, Oklahoma, steam show is one of our favorite antique farm equipment shows. It's officially the Oklahoma Steam Threshing and Gas Engine Association Show. It's a weekend full of activities and displays reliving farm life in the olden days.
One of our favorite pastimes has always been attending old-time engine,
farm tractor, and steam shows. We just call them “steam shows,” but they
encompass a whole lot more. There are numerous kinds of old time
activities at these shows, from quilting to steam threshing, and corn
grinding to rock crushing. Many of the shows also include a swap meet.
There are engines of every size. Miniatures will fit on the palm of your hand. The giant Corliss steam engine takes up an entire building. There are little, single cylinder gas engines running old washing machines. Monstrous traction engines run the sawmill, plow, or thresh grain. There are old tractors, trucks, and cars of makes and models no longer made.
One of the best shows, in my opinion, is the Oklahoma Steam and Gas
Engine Show. The Oklahoma Steam Threshing and Gas Engine Association in
Pawnee, Oklahoma, host the show. Taking place in early May, it is one of
the earliest shows every season.
This spring we were fortunate enough to be traveling north through the Pawnee area the first weekend of May, just in time for the show. We decided to plan our travels to be in Pawnee for the weekend.
Being flea market vendors in the past, we had accumulated “good stuff” along our travels. This was a perfect opportunity to lighten our load. We set up in the flea market section, while we also enjoyed the steam show.
The show begins Friday, but set up is on Thursday. Thursday evening is a bean feed for show participants. Two giant cast iron caldrons are set up over wood fires. Ham and beans simmer all day long. The beans, either navy or pintos, are served with corn bread, either plain or with jalapenos.
Friday morning is when the show really starts. The
rest of the weekend consists of a constant array of activities. A steam
engine provides power for cutting lumber on the sawmill. There is corn
shelling and grinding. Old timers and others interested in old time ways
thresh grain. There are quilting exhibits, rope making, and shingle
cutting. The massive Corliss steam engine runs. Single cylinder engines
pop along. There's an old line shaft driven machine shop.
It was a little wet this year, so there wasn’t a lot of plowing, but it was fun watching the few tractors that did try to brave the wet and muddy field. There were tractor slow races and other competitions. I especially enjoyed watching the steam engines compete.
Every day there's a parade featuring equipment, tractors, cars, and trucks.
Static displays features crafts, vintage household items, old tools,
old toys, and just about anything related to life around 1900. Besides
the flea market and swap meet area where we set up, there's craft show.
Food concessions set-up throughout the show grounds. There's an old timey popcorn maker and Amish ice cream. One concessionaire has old-fashioned root beer. Indian tacos, barbeque, and pizza are available, too, along with carnival type foods.
Sunday afternoon, I watched as many of the huge pieces of machinery were gingerly maneuvered on to trailers to go back home. Some of the loading took more skill and finesse than the competitions.
Did I mention the spark show at night, the live music on stage, the toy show, the open-air church service, the ground trains, or the impromptu evening jam sessions in the camping area? We had a great time at the Pawnee steam show, and oh yes, we really slept well at night.
Editor's note: My husband, Bob Nilles, wrote this article. Bob likes history and mechanical things. So, it's easy to understand why he's particularly fond of these shows with old steam engines, antique farm equipment, and tool collections. We always have a good time at them, and this spring Oklahoma Steam and Gas Engine Show in Pawnee was surely a good one.