The Forest City Threshers grounds is in the midst of a building boom.
Or, perhaps more accurately, a rebuilding boom. During the past two years, the organization’s members have moved a handful of buildings to the grounds, located six miles northeast of Litchfield on State Highway 24.
Each of the structures will have new purpose. Eventually.
A piece of the former Litchfield train depot-turned house — moved to the grounds in March — will return to its roots as a depot museum. An old Department of Natural Resources building from Litchfield, taken down piece-by-piece in 2018, is being reconstructed on the grounds and will serve as storage for a variety of old farm equipment. Two buildings from the former Ideal Lumber yard in Litchfield will house a variety of displays, from lumber history to grain cleaning and handling, to gas engine shops.
“We have had a whole bunch of people telling us, ‘we’ve got a lot of stuff, and we’ll donate it to you, but we want it inside,’ so we’ve been moving buildings in when we find them,” said Dave Jutz, Threshers club president. “Our big shed, (the main building) that’s full of stuff that people have donated. That’s kind of how it works. And the more (storage space) we make available, the more it happens.”
Added club member Butch Schulte: “Once they think we have an open building, I mean, the building’s full before it’s done.”
Such is the case with the aforementioned buildings, which all seemingly are dedicated as storage or display for specific items, even though their completion dates might be a few years in the future.
Another new building will be open this weekend for visitors to the Forest City Threshers Show, which runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The show focuses on farm life from early 1900s to about 1960, Jutz said.
A former two-stall garage, moved to the grounds two years ago, has been remodeled, with a new front added, and will serve as a dairy museum, primarily housing equipment that has been collected by Milferd Smith, a rural Darwin farmer, over several decades.
“This is less than half of his equipment,” Jutz said as he and Schulte walked the Threshers grounds with a visitor last week. “It (the building) will be full. In fact, he says he might not be able to get it all in here.
“Milferd told us a while ago, ‘If you guys put me up a building, I’ll put it there,’” Jutz added. “That’s just the way it happens.”
And while it might seem at times — even to club members — that there’s a lack of a clear development plan, they also are reluctant to say “no” to opportunities that will add to the historic lessons about farming and ag-related business and activities the Forest City Threshers Show offers.
“We all go off on our tangents,” admitted Schulte, who was a key player in having the old depot moved to the grounds.
“We have plans, but you know, with all the stuff we’ve got going on, actually, the real projects we’re supposed to be getting done, we’re not getting done,” Jutz added. “Like I say, hopefully we live long enough to get it all done.”
It’s difficult to believe it won’t get done when one listens to the passion with which Jutz and Schulte and other Threshers club members talk about each project — and the importance of sharing it with visitors.
“Part of it is, most of the guys who are involved in this, we come from some sort of ag background,” Schulte said. “As a kid, and I only got to do it one time, I got to be part of a real threshing bee. Some of the older guys, they had that chance more often. But a lot of us, I suppose, are just trying to be a kid again.”
“Everybody’s got their thing,” Jutz said. “We could be golfing, or doing other stuff, you know. This started as a hobby. My wife calls it a sickness. I don’t know if it is (but) some days we think that maybe we’re crazy. But it’s just what you want to do. We enjoy it.”