Everyone’s pitching in to help pitch at Threshermen’s Reunion

Organizers expect more that 125 threshing machines to be on hand for the world-record event

Helmut Neufeld, a longtime volunteer at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum at Austin, has been hard at work restoring threshing 
machines in preparation for the July 31 Harvesting Hope event.

The pioneer harvest to be staged at the 2016 Manitoba Threshermen’s Reunion and Stampede in Austin next month won’t just be the largest in this organization’s 62-year history.

It will be the grandest display of operating threshing machines the world has ever seen, and that’s no publicity pitch.

Harvesting Hope: A World Record to Help the Hungry, to be held on the Austin-area Manitoba Agricultural Museum grounds was officially registered this spring with Guinness World Records for a plan to assemble and simultaneously operate 125 century-old threshing machines with 600 volunteers serving as old-time threshing crews.

It will be an incredible event and spectators will feel transported back a century, say organizers. The threshing crews have all been urged to don period garb — straw hats or driving caps, but no baseball caps, and traditional buttoned-up shirts, not polo- or T-shirts.

“Our hope is that if you were to take a picture of this event with a black and white camera, from the people on the machines you wouldn’t be able to tell if it was 2016 or 1916,” says Elliot Sims, vice-president of the Threshermen’s Reunion and Stampede and serving as a co-chair of Harvesting Hope, which is a joint fundraiser between the ag museum and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Big crowds are nothing new to Austin, where thousands arrive every July long weekend to watch and participate in the annual Threshermen’s Reunion and Stampede. But on July 31 everything is plus size.

“This is going to be the largest show in our 62-year history,” says Sims. “We may run out of space… it’s a great problem to have.”

Coming from far and wide

Planning for the giant threshing event began over two years ago, with word going out soon after to begin recruiting and registering those with threshing machines. With less than two months to go, they have no worries they’ll get 125 and expect to even exceed that number, said Sims. They’re coming from all over Western Canada and down into the U.S.

“So far we have machines confirmed from as far away as just outside of Edmonton and all the way to Northern Iowa who are hoping to attend the event,” Sims said.

Last week they counted 100 officially registered machines.

“There’s another 10 or 11 just waiting for paperwork and we’ve got many, many more that we know are out there in the province, or in Western Canada so we’re still trying to reach out to the owners and let them know about the event.”

Museums from across Western Canada, large and small, are sending people and machines too, so the scene on July 31 will feature all the common brands of threshing machines plus some rare machines seldom or perhaps never seen in Manitoba. They’ve already begun to arrived and it’s fascinating looking them over, Sims said.

“We’re discovering all kinds of unique ideas and methods of trying to improve threshing machines that were tried and experimented with by companies throughout the years.”

Meanwhile, MAM’s dedicated volunteers are already hard at work getting the site ready to accommodate both people and machines, says executive director Georgette Hutlet.

Between 700 to 800 volunteers are officially registered to help with the weekend, but they’ll need — and are confident they’ll get — around 1,000 pitching in, she added.

There’s lots of jobs driving shuttles and directing traffic and feeding people on any reunion weekend.

“Sunday is usually our quietest day. This year we’ll be 10 times as busy,” she said. “It’s going to require a lot of volunteers and a lot of organization.”

Sims said most registering threshing machines for the event are bringing their own teams but there is opportunity for volunteers to still be involved directly in the pioneer harvest too.

“There are some looking for a person here or there,” he said, adding additional volunteers will prevent anyone from getting too tired.

Harvesting Hope takes place July 31 at the MAM just outside Austin. For more information or to find a volunteer registration form log on to harvestinghope.ca.

About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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