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36th Annual Itasca Pioneer Farmers show spawned a small city in Itasca

Firing up the old sawmill on the grounds always draws a huge crowd of onlookers. Thousands walked through the village last weekend. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 4
Howard Kittelson of Pelican Rapids operated his 1907 Challenge saw, cutting firewood. The saw constantly circulates water over a screen to cool the pump, which Kittelson says never overheats. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)2 / 4
Blacksmith Dean Hagen, of Maddock, N.D., prepares to bend a red hot rod into a hanger for a dinner bell. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)3 / 4
Dan Nier of North Branch uses a shingle mill to make shingles, but it was the cedar shavings that were in large demand. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)4 / 4

The Park Rapids region got a glimpse of its rich past and a peek into its equally wealthy future this past weekend, both celebrated in sounds, songs and applause.

The 36th annual Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers show featured the usual pops, sparks and chugs. The 3rd annual Youth Music and Art Showcase featured sounds with a slightly different resonance.

The Pioneer Farmers

It began with a poignant remembrance of the man who was the inspiration and soul behind the show, its first president.

Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers and show attendees remembered Bob A. Bilden for his contributions to the show that spawns an RV village of hundreds of tractor lovers and tinkerers north of Itasca State Park. Bilden passed away last winter, but his spirit was felt on the grounds throughout the weekend.

The pioneer village's auditorium was renamed the Bob A. Builden Center in his memory.

Builden attracted collectors such as Howard Kittelson of Pelican Rapids, who brought his 1907 Challenge saw rig.

Kittelson spent the weekend sawing firewood.

"It's the first time I've had this up here," he said. "I have too many things to show," he added with a grin.

The rig included a screen cooler. Kittelson explained the pump circulates water over the screen and cools it.

"It's kind of fun," Kittelson said.

Lee Anderson of Frazee was decked out in a bowler hat, driving his 1908 Lacrosse motor buggy around the grounds. He'd hop off every so often to answer questions and greet fans.

Paul Corson of Guthrie is an annual visitor.

"I like all of 'em," he said, touring the tractor show. "I've owned quite a few of them."

Dan Nier of North Branch was surprised to see that his cedar shavings were snatched up and bagged by attendees, for use in potpourri or scented candles.

He was sawing cedar shingles at one demonstration site.

Larry Shelquist of Clearbrook, who owns four tractors, said he worries the future generation isn't so enamored of the geriatric toys as his generation was, not having grown up with them.

"It's a hobby of mine." He said of fixing up his small fleet.

"It consumes a lot of time but it's a labor of love. It's a good project after you retire."

Albert Luecken of Bagley drives one of Shelquist's tractors in the daily parade. He also demonstrates the old threshing machines in the field.

But as the men wonder about the next generation, they recall Mitchell Emery of Bagley, a 15-year-old tinkerer who already owns three tractors.

They chuckle. The future isn't so bleak after all, they reason.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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