A steam-powered saw mill that cut logs into lumber, the La Porte County (IN) Courthouse’s first electric generator plant, steam tractors and a steam crane were just some of the many big machines that came alive for visitors during the 60th annual Hesston Steam and Power Show, which took place Labor Day weekend Friday through Monday, Sept. 2-5.
Presented by the not-for-profit La Porte County Historical Steam Society, the four-day event also featured old-fashioned cuisine, such as traditional festival treats from various booths and popcorn from a steam-powered popcorn machine, The Popcorn Wagon. A Labor Day flea market was also taking place near the Museum’s entrance, where a variety of items, from antiques and railroad memorabilia to arts and crafts, were on full display.
During the Parade of Power, Ted Rita, the Museum’s full-time general manager, thanked all of the volunteers for keeping everything running and making the weekend such a success.
Head Sawyer Ross Miles Van Overberghe, who’s in charge of the 1900-era Hesston sawmill, said he enjoys volunteering at the Museum because he enjoys everyone’s reactions to the live “demonstrations” the Museum puts on for its visitors. He said the Museum runs the sawmill for select weekends throughout the year: Memorial Day weekend, the Fourth of July, Labor Day weekend, the Ghost Train event the last three weekends in October and, new this year, they will be running it during the Clash of the Lumberjacks: Steam, Steel and Sawdust event Sept. 24-25.
“People can see how things used to be,” he said, adding that he also enjoyed history.
Van Overberghe said he particularly enjoys preserving history through the sawmill. Sometimes, he said, a family will bring him a log that was from a tree that was planted on their family farm that was struck down during a storm. While the tree is now gone, the wood from the log can be used to make a piece of furniture, keeping the story of the farm alive in their own home.
“It’s really being able to keep history alive,” he said.
Bethanne Jackson of Granger, Indiana, who just started volunteering at the Museum this past summer, said she can’t believe its popularity.
“I can’t believe all the people,” she said.
Volunteering at Hesston is a family affair, as Jackson added that while she works in the gift shop, her husband and two sons work one the Museum’s trains. She added that one of her sons is working on building a tunnel for one of Hesston’s trains to go through as an Eagle Scouts project, and that his brother is helping him.
Hesston Steam Museum is located at 1201 East 1000 North in La Porte, Indiana. For more information, visit www.hesston.org.