Engine festival revs up this weekend

Published 10:07 pm Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nineteen years ago, it was nothing more than a tractor pull.

Today, it’s an all-out extravaganza.

The 19th annual Steam and Gas Engine Festival will take place Saturday and Sunday at the Chippokes Farm and Forestry Museum in Surry.

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“It started out as a small opportunity for folks to show off their antique engines and do a little tractor pull, and it has grown,” said Linda Guntharp, executive director for the museum. “This year, we have blown it out of the water.”

On top of the annual tractor pull, there will be demonstrations of other antique machines, including a hay press, a belt-driven corn grinder and sheller and a peanut picker.

“I think a lot of people come for the agricultural aspect,” said Carla Kirts, a teacher for the museum. “They want to see the old way of doing things, to be able to see the antique equipment.”

Kirts said the operating sawmill is of particular interest to festival guests.

“A lot of them really like to see the old saw mill work,” she said. “I think a lot of people are surprised to see a group of men in there, a group of sawyers, running that thing.”

Throughout the two-day affair, there will be vendors and live entertainment, including more than a dozen bands such as Slapwater, The Hackensaw Boys and the Ray Pittman Project.

While the antiques might be fun for Mom and Dad, Guntharp said there will be a petting zoo, dunk tank and craft demonstrations for the children, as well.

“We wanted to get into the community as much as we could and allow the community to be a part of what we do,” Guntharp said. “Creating good family time, that was our focus.”

In its first year, the festival drew a few hundred guests. That number has multiplied. Last year, the festival brought in more than 2,000 people to the park, and that was considered a down year because of poor weather.

“We’ve gone from being a handful of folks showing off some antiques to what we are now,” Guntharp said. “This is about enjoying yourself and getting a chance to see your neighbors, and people have responded to that.”

Guntharp and the rest of the museum staff are hoping that people will also respond to the measures taken to make the event economically friendly, too.

Tickets to the festival are $5 for anyone 9 or above. Students, 9 -18 who are members of a school or county sports team, band or Scout troop will get free admission if they wear the 2009 uniform.

“We wanted to make this an easy day for parents as well as the family,” Guntharp said. “It’s about planning a day that won’t cost a fortune and will have some great memories.”

The festival will run from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information about the festival, call 757-294-3439.