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Old Fashioned Harvest Days takes visitors back in time

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MADRID - Visitors to the 24th annual Old Fashioned Harvest Days Saturday at the St. Lawrence Power and Equipment Museum had an opportunity to step back in time to a simpler life.

Tractors harkening back to days gone by were on display, along with newer pieces of equipment, many of which took part in a tractor and horse parade on a trail inside the museum’s 100 acres of property on state Highway 345 in Madrid.

Inside one of the buildings, Phyllis Brock demonstrated the old art of knitting, right down to taking raw wool and using a blending board to straighten it out and take the dirt out.

Carlton Stickney had several spinning wheels from his collection on display, including a pendulum spinning wheel, made by M.S. Morehouse and Co., Cape Vincent, dating back to 1865.

After wool was sheared from a sheep and washed, it could be dyed, combed as Ms. Brock was doing and then placed on the wool wheel. Sitting in a chair by the wheel, the user would pump a pedal, which would turn the wheel to spin the wool.

“Often times if the kids came around, they’d have the kids turn the wheel,” Mr. Stickney said.

Flax was used for linen, he said, with users pulling it after it was harvested and then pounding it on a flax brake before it would eventually end up on a wheel to make linen.

“They keep hitting it (on the flax brake) to loosen up more of the debris,” he said. “Once it’s spun into thread, then it’s linen.”

The building where Ms. Brock and Mr. Stickney did their demonstrations also contained several displays, from a one-horse sleigh made around 1930 by Union Carriage and Gear Co., Watertown, to a one-horse buggy made around 1930 by Watertown Carriage Co., to a horse-drawn water wagon, doctor’s buggy, two-seater sleigh and 1920’s horse-drawn kerosene tanker.

Booths were set up throughout the grounds, including one from the St. Lawrence County Maple Syrup Association, where they sold a variety of products, including maple syrup cotton candy.

Page Moulton, an alternate dairy princess from Madrid, was on hand to promote the dairy industry. She offered free cheese and milk for $1.50.

Her goal, she said, was to “make sure they get their three (dairy products) every day.”

In addition to her appearance in Madrid, Ms. Moulton, a student at Madrid-Waddington Central School, said they have also gone to the county fair and do school programs.

“We’re trying to get kids to do activity for 60 minutes,” with a reward of chocolate milk afterward, she said, noting chocolate milk had more nutrients than many sports drinks.

Ms. Moulton, whose father owns a farm in Madrid, said she enjoys promoting the dairy industry.

“It keeps me busy throughout the year,” she said.

Across the grounds, a replica Texaco gas station was set up next to a shoe shop, and nearby, Dave Hebert was using a wood splitter to split logs as horse-drawn wagons carried visitors around the grounds.

“You always hold the bottom half of the log,” Mr. Herbert said as the hammer came down to split a piece of wood.

Several events were taking place throughout the day, including corn harvesting, operating of antique sawmills, an antique auto and truck exhibit, miniature horse pull, tractor and horse parade, draft horse pull, garden tractor pull, corn chopping, kids pedal tractor races and a spaghetti supper.

The Old Fashioned Harvest Days are held over Labor Day weekend and Donald Lustyik, a member of the museum’s board, said they continue to draw large crowds.

“I dare say 2,000 to 3,000 people come in. It’s a good draw,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s an old-time village feeling.”

The goal of the non-profit organization is to preserve power systems, equipment and related knowledge and skills that were an integral part of the development of the north country. Exhibits and programs focus largely on the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.

It was formerly the St. Lawrence Gas and Steam Engine Association, which was formed in 1976, and the membership and assets of the association were transferred to the museum after it received its charter in 2004.

The museum also holds an exhibition in June, and Mr. Lustyik said they have many who return in the fall for the Harvest Days. And visitors will find plenty to keep them busy throughout the day during both events.

“The tractor pull is the big one. It draws a big crowd,” he said.

Those who missed Saturday’s activities can still catch up on the action. Harvest Days continues today with a number of activities including a horse and tractor parade at 9:30, operation of antique sawmills from 10-11 a.m., corn harvest from 10-11 a.m., antique auto and truck exhibit from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., antique tractor pull from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., barbecue chicken dinner beginning at 12 p.m., corn chopping from 1-2 p.m., operation of the antique sawmills from 1-2 p.m. and kids pedal tractor pull from 1-2:30 p.m.

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