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Field Days: Tractor club keeping history alive for 25 years

Norman Denstedt of Park Rapids started restoring antique stationary engines about 25 years ago, right around the same time Field Days got going in Park Rapids.

Blain Grover, right, and Clint Wright heat up metal while working in the blacksmith shop during Field Days on Saturday.
Blain Grover, right, and Clint Wright heat up metal while working in the blacksmith shop during Field Days on Saturday.

Norman Denstedt of Park Rapids started restoring antique stationary engines about 25 years ago, right around the same time Field Days got going in Park Rapids.

"My very first engine was a little LB. My oldest daughter is 41 and I've got a picture of her sitting beside that one when she was about 3," he said.

Denstedt had four antique stationary engines on display this past weekend during the 25th annual Antique Tractor & Engine Club Field Days, held in Park Rapids.

Denstedt said he has been in the tractor club about seven years and loves working on engines. He also belongs to a street rod club but he sold his '56 Mercury and now only works on antique stationary engines.

He picked up a 5-horse, round rod Galloway last year which he says was built in about 1928 to 1930. The Galloway engine was the one most visitors stopped to talk about Saturday as Denstedt had a half dozen engines on display at the show.

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"They want to know what it is, what they were used for and the simplest explanation I can give to them is these engines were used on anything and everything that you would use an electric motor on today," Denstedt said.

He explained, in that time period, the engines would be powered by a big belt similar to a sawmill.

"This might only be a 5-horse but the torque on it is very dangerous because if you ever got your arm stuck in there or a piece of clothes you would never stop it because of the spinning action of the flywheels."

Denstedt said the engine weighs over 1,000 pounds and when he bought it he completely rebuilt the frame and battery box. He spent 40 years working as a maintenance mechanic for Toro Company in the Cities and said he's worked on engines all his life.

"I think this is wonderful," Denstedt said of the Field Days event. "You gotta keep this information flowing. If they're interested in it, we're 100 percent eager to tell them about the engines and what they're used for."

He pointed out the smaller engines would have been used to power a washing machine or corn grinder. People who stopped by to ask about the engines were genuinely interested in the history and Denstedt loves to talk about the machines.

"That's their history. Somebody will come up and say, 'My dad had one of those or my grandpa had one of those.'"

Club member Noel Allard said they were very pleased with the weekend's attendance.

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"From my perspective of 10 years involvement, I am going to say this was a record-breaking year for both participation from tractor owners and gate attendance." This year's theme was IH (International Harvester) tractors and equipment. The event hosted the MN-Dak Chapter of the International Harvester Collectors Club, whose members brought a dozen or more tractors and implements.

Allard called the "field of red" impressive and joked they overpowered those "green tractor guys."

"With the weather just a bit overcast, the temperature was very pleasant and the sun didn't bake us," Allard said in summarizing this year's Field Days. "I think everyone was in a good mood, comments from our guests were positive and there was plenty to do and see for all. The food lines were long all day and we even set a record for the number of root-beer floats!"

Matthew Hildebrandt was in the blacksmith shop doing some demonstrations. He does blacksmith work as a hobby and said he picked it up when he was younger because if he wanted things made that was the only way he could do it.

"I needed some things made and you couldn't get it made any other way but heat it and beat it," he said, while working with Blain Grover in pounding out a piece of heated metal.

Hildebrandt lives in Big Lake and participates in Field Days to help his uncle, tractor club president Jim Wright.

Demonstrating blacksmithing is another way of keeping the past alive. People ask what they're burning, how hot it gets, how we do it. The kids loved coming in to get their birdhouses branded.

This was the sixth year for Roger Morical of Battle Lake who brought five antique tractors to the show.

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"I've been an implement dealer for 60 years and 1998 was the first time we went to a tractor show in Dalton, Minnesota. It just kept growing. I've got about 20-some Fords," he said as an observer walked up to admire the machinery.

"You have this running real nice," the man said. "Nice and tight."

Lenus Nielson, 86, of Sheridan, Wyoming, walked into the old country schoolhouse on grounds and immediately started reminiscing about his teaching career, part of which was in a similar country school in Montana. Nielson taught for 41 years and said he lived at the country school 17 miles south of Wibaux, Montana. The school was heated by an oil burning stove and when the temperature dropped to 23-below the line from the supply tank would freeze and oil couldn't come through. He said he woke up during those nights pretty darn cold.

Nielson said he has a sister who lives in Park Rapids and he visits each year.

"We always make sure we get here in time for Dorset Days and the tractor show," he said.

The weekend activities included antique tractor parades both Saturday and Sunday, tractor pulls, square dancing, as well as demonstrations like the sawmill, blacksmithing and threshing.

Related Topics: PARK RAPIDS
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