Among them as sort of guests of honor were four steam engines and other steam-powered tool displays, rounding out the attractions at the Smithsburg Steam Engine and Craft Show. Now in its 38th year, the show is sponsored by and benefits the Smithsburg High School Athletic Boosters.
Event chairman Daniel Rishell said the boosters was established by a committee including his father, George Rishell, years ago in response to a lack of funding for girls’ sports. Daniel Rishell is one of eight children, five of them girls.
“They wanted the girls to have the same opportunities as the guys, so they started the boosters,” Rishell said. “Later, the boosters started the Steam Engine and Craft Show.”
Rishell said given Smithsburg’s rich farming history and a boosters member’s knowledge of steam engines, the Steam Engine and Craft Show seemed a “natural thing to do.” Today, he said, the show draws a crowd of more than 20,000 people from numerous states and raises about $25,000 for the boosters.
“These guys with their antique tractors really enjoy this stuff. They’ll travel a long way for it and they like to come back,” he said.
John Acker, 88, of Greencastle, Pa., and his wife, Jean Acker, sat on lawn chairs on a hill overlooking the tractors and steam engines. John Acker said his son-in-law, Kevin Rice of Pen Mar, Pa., was displaying equipment in the show.
“He’s a steam man,” Acker said.
In addition to the tractors, crafts and food, the Ackers said they enjoyed watching a steam-powered sawmill demonstration run by Greg Reeder. Reeder said the portable 1920s sawmill is owned by the town of Smithsburg and was made in Waynesboro, Pa.
“It’s good to show people the way things used to be,” Reeder said.
Blacksmith Art Shanholtz of Martinsburg, W.Va., used a handcrank blower to push air through a fire in a coal forge to heat and shape his metal.
“I talk to the steam guys. Basically, they burn coal, I burn coal,” he said. “You can see here the versatility of steam power. You could use it to run sawmills, threshers, different farming tools.”
Michael Harris, 29, of Woodsboro, Md., went to the show with his daughter, Ella Harris, and friend, Luke Johnson, 31, of Thurmont, Md. Harris said he goes to a number of steam engine shows because they are “amazing to watch.” The event’s parade is one of the largest he’s seen, he said. Harris indicated a 1913 steam engine and estimated that it probably cost $100,000 to restore.
“You wouldn’t think so many people would be into it, but they shell out a lot of money and a lot of time for this,” he said. “I was raised on a farm. It’s important for people to see how hard it was to work back in the day, how much easier it is now. It used to take a two-person crew to run an engine. Now, a kid could do it.”
Concessions manager Kelli Black said vendors came from as far away as Maine and owners brought tractors from Georgia and Tennessee.
Athletes take home donated apples and a pie plate so families can contribute homemade pies to the event. All athletes, more than 300 in all, pitch in two hours of work. Proceeds pay for all sports uniforms, which are replaced every four years, Black said.