Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers' show keeps north country ways alive

Saturday's threshing demo went awry, but a good-sized crowed enjoyed the tractor parade, live music, food, kids' pedal pull and sawmill demonstrations, among other attractions.

Carl Johnson of Bagley forks oats onto the belt feeding into a 1930s-era Wood Bros. threshing machine Saturday at the Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers Show. Donated to the club by the late Ole Ysen, a founding member, the thresher was unable to run properly on Saturday due to a mechanical issue. Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise, Aug. 21, 2021

The Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers show Friday, Saturday and Sunday featured parades, tractor pulls, children’s games and all the amenities of an old-fashioned village.

There were also demonstrations of logging equipment, sawmills, steam engines and a vintage threshing machine – although technical difficulties cut Saturday’s threshing demo short.

Members of Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers, including Ryan Sorenson (on the ground) and Doug Miller (at the rear), use a vintage Minneapolis steam engine to power a threshing machine during Saturday's show in Itasca State Park. Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise, Aug. 21, 2021

Jody Ranisate said the thresher, manufactured in the 1930s by Wood Bros., was donated to the chapter by her late, great-grandfather Ole Ysen, who was a founding member of the pioneer farmers. Her cousins, AJ and Shawn Ysen, now own the machine.


“It’s a great piece of history,” said Ranisate. “There’s not a lot of them that currently run. The nice part about this machine is, having it here, it’s well maintained.

“There’s a lot of them around, but they’re just sitting in fields, just rusting out. Nobody is really taking care of them. Nobody is seeing the importance of them. Nobody is seeing the real history of them. That’s what’s so great about these shows.”

She said it’s important to understand the history of farming and where your food comes from, especially in times like the ongoing pandemic. To people who say, “We get our food from the grocery store,” she replied, “Where do you think it comes from? There’s so much more to the farming aspect than people realize, than just shelves in the grocery store.”

Members of the widespread Hemmerich family demonstrate how to roll logs onto a sled, powered by a team of horses during the Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers show Saturday in Itasca State Park. It was the family's 26th year of demos on Roy Hemmerich Memorial Sawmill Hill. Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise, Aug. 21, 2021

Descendants of the late Roy Hemmerich traveled from as far away as California, Colorado and Kansas to take part in the family’s 26th year of demonstrating logging skills and equipment, including Roy’s second-hand sawmill on Sawmill Hill and a variety of hand- and motor-powered saws, much of it donated to the show grounds.

They also used a two-horse team to show how lumberjacks used to pile logs onto sleds, also hauling a log back into position after it rolled off the top of the pile.


Travis Schultz, left, shows Aiden Butler and Shannon Butler the traditional way to make lefse at the Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers show Saturday in Itasca State Park. Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise, Aug. 21, 2021

Also on display were vintage farm toys, logging industry memorabilia, rustic arts and crafts, the old Arago town hall and schoolhouse, the former Osage First Baptist Church and more.

Other attractions included an extensive tractor parade – also featuring antique road grading equipment, fire trucks and a Triumph motorbike – as well as a kids’ pedal pull, a tractor pull, live music and lots of food.

Although participants came from far and wide, it was apparent from parade announcer Tim Johnson’s patter that the pioneer farmers are a close-knit community, almost a family, devoted to keeping the history of the rural northwoods alive.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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