Reynolds Alberta Museum was prepared for a large crowd for the annual Harvest Festival August 30th and 31st, 2014. In addition to the 600 vehicle paved parking lot, an extension was added in the grassy area leading up to the highway. On both days, both parking lots were filled with vehicles and the grounds were swarming with people trying to re-live their early farm experiences and share them with their children, grandchildren and in some cases great grandchildren.
“Early on Saturday, the parking lot was full and we were directing cars to the overflow”, stated Cynthia Blackmore, Head of Marketing and Communications. Blackmore estimates this year’s event grew by10%. “Our parking lot holds 600 cars, so it wasn’t long before vehicles were being directed to overflow.”
Harvest Festival is the perfect opportunity for old-timers to reminisce about the nostalgic sights, sounds and the smells of bringing in the harvest amidst all the displays and demonstrations of old equipment bordering a field of golden wheat. As Cynthia Blackmore, explained, “The Festival attracts more people each year possibly because there is so much machine power, not only on display, but operating.” Activities included stationary engine displays, tractor starting and driving demonstrations, field work, and threshing. The Harvest Festival is all about agriculture and equipment that were used in years-gone-by leading to modern day agriculture practices.
Today, fewer than three out of every 100 Albertans are involved in farming
In the past, most people knew how their food arrived at their table by direct experience with farming. Urban families would visit the grandparent’s or uncle and aunt’s farm and see first-hand how their food was grown and where it came from. Today, fewer than three out of every 100 Albertans are involved in farming. As a result, a large percentage of our population is a few generations removed from agriculture and the agri-food industry. The ‘industrial’ type of farm operations we see today are so much bigger, it limits the opportunity for youth of today to experience first-hand how food is produced. The Reynolds Alberta Museum is helping address that gap by hosting the Annual Harvest Festival.
Something old, something new
Martin Equipment’s display of a massive modern combine, baler and tractor was a major contrast to the old 428 Cockshutt combine that was working in the adjacent wheat field. Martin Equipment, Wetaskiwin, a sponsor of the Harvest Festival, illustrated how Alberta’s agriculture and food industry has been undergoing momentous growth and changes for more than 100 years. The ‘straw hat and bib overalls’ image that portrayed farmers for many years has been replaced by that of advanced business people operating precision computer operated equipment, using modern business practices and working in a global economy.
Blackmore explained that the Festival brings people to Wetaskiwin from across the entire province and beyond. “This reminds people of their history so it’s very near to many peoples’ hearts. Its (cultivating and harvesting) not done like this anymore. We are bringing in the crops the old fashioned way with the threshing machines, binders and other machinery.”
As the crowd moved from demonstration to demonstration, it was the old fashioned threshing demonstration that was the main act. The huge vintage tractor chugs into position, is connected to a large belt, the gears are engaged and the threshing machine begins to rumble. As the volunteers pitched bundles of grain into the feeder of the threshing machine, it wasn’t long until straw and chaff spewed into a pile and grain flowed into a wagon parked next to the machine.
The Harvest Festival allows people of all ages to reflect back. The smoking, chugging, and massive steam traction engines are the real crowd-pleasers of this show. The displays and demonstrations depict farming from the time of flailing grain to steam engines, to gas tractors, to diesel tractors to larger modern equipment. Attractions and demonstrations kept guests busy for the entire day. Grain grinding, flailing of grain to separate the kernels and straw and touring through the impressive display of vintage vehicles and agricultural equipment in the museum are all part of Harvest Festival.
Blackmore explained how modern technology is augmenting their information dissemination. “We now use technology to explain to the entire world what we are. We now have people from across the world sharing in the history of agriculture that has been created by the (Reynolds Alberta) Museum. We have several segments on YouTube that have resulted in inquiries from around the world.”
Volunteers support RAM throughout the year and begin preparing for Harvest Festival in earnest at least two weeks before the event. “Needless to say, this whole event (Harvest Festival) is very labour intensive and we have all staff as well as more than 85 volunteers to help give our visitors the best experience possible”, concludes Blackmore with a warm and proud feeling. For more information contact the Reynolds-Alberta Museum. Phone 780.361.1351 or 1.800.661.4726 or visit www.reynoldsalbertamuseum.com
Pictured: Jim Drebert, New Serepta, adjusts the 5 HP motor driving the 1928 IHC Haypress. Photo by Barry McDonald