The start of antique engine show
Event that dates back to 1960s
Village of Sussex — The Aug. 28-29 Sussex Threshing Bee & Old Time Engine Show goes back to 1959 when the inaugural event was held at the Adolph Nettesheim farm on Springdale Road in Brookfield.
It was the result of a far-sighted set of men, led by Lannon's Glenn Harmon. Harmon was in his declining years, after an eventful life of farming, quarrying and politics in Lannon. He, along with 15 other men, (some say 32) - all top-notch mechanics - decided to form the Early Day Gas Engine Show, as a chance to show off their collections of old engines in working order.
Charter member Gene Nettesheim came up with the idea of asking his uncle, Adolph Nettesheim, to use his farm near Capitol Drive on Springdale Road in Brookfield in the late summer of 1959.
Getting back to Lannon's Glenn Harmon. He was born in 1898 near Lannon. In 1930, there was an uproar in Lannon over the old Town of Menomonee failing to support putting in street lights in downtown Lannon. This precipitated a situation where Lannon broke away from the Town of Menomonee and incorporated as the Village of Lannon. Harmon was the second elected president of the Village of Lannon, serving four years from 1932 to 1936.
Forever an organizer, Harmon in 1946, put together the Lannon Smokey Hollow Gun Club and a Lannon Junior Sharp Shooters Club that had a gun range in a gravel pit where today is the Lannon Mobile Home Court. It was heavy on teaching youth shooters, but also catered to experienced gun handlers in the area with an emphasis on muzzle-loading guns of the pioneers.
Then in 1958, at age 60, Harmon again was active in starting a new club, the Early Day Gas Engine Club, and he served as its first president.
The Early Day Gas Engine Club used the Nettesheim farm for three years - 1959 to 1961 - for its show-and-tell display of engines and tractors. By 1962, they needed a bigger venue.
Meanwhile, in 1958, Sussex had purchased the former James Moyes 78-acre farm west of the village for a future village park. The cost was $36,088.19. It took a few years to get it going, first clearing the broken-down farm buildings and putting in the hardball diamond by the Land O'Lakes baseball team and the north diamond by the Sussex Park Board.
The Early Day Gas Engine Club looked at developing at the Sussex Village Park and in particular, the Kettle Area, a natural amphitheater. In 1962, they contracted with the village to stage their old engine show and the rest is history as the club has now staged 51 shows, 49 of them at Sussex Village Park.
The beauty of the use of the kettle area in the park is a viewer can see from any vantage point the entire circle of events going on. There are steam engines of yore chugging away, oats being threshed, log sawing mills being worked and tent displays welcoming visitors. Meanwhile other tents and buildings have food purveyors looking for hungry and thirsty show attendants.
A side story is the Sussex Lions Club in short order after the 1962 arrival of the Early Day Gas Engine Club in attached itself to the event as a club fundraiser selling sweet corn on the cob and a line of other food and beverages. Then in 1967, the Lions, using their experience, got to start their own fundraiser, Lions Daze which has become a community homecoming event each year.
In the 52 years of the Old Engine Show there has been a considerable turnover, but two new generations have learned of the old engines from charter member and the annual show goes on.
If you go
What: Sussex Antique Power Association presents 2010 52nd annual Threshing Bee and Engine Show
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 28-29
Where: Sussex Village Park