Legacy of the Plains brings history to life with Harvest Festival

September 16, 2018

GERING — Potatoes, tractors, horses and historical hay harvesting were all out on display for visitors to the Legacy of the Plains Museum this weekend at the 2018 Harvest Festival.

Rick Henderson, one of the demonstrators, said the day would focus on farming equipment from just before and just after mechanization, including horse-drawn equipment for mowing, sweeping, and stacking hay. “This is the way it was done years ago,” he said, “before mechanical engine power. The main focus is on horses, because that’s where it all got started.”

Kevin Sandberg, a member of the Legacy of the Plains board of directors, said the decision on what crop to focus on each year is usually determined by what equipment the museum has on-hand and what the mechanics can replace.

“We’re fortunate that we didn’t need a lot of parts,” he said. For the one of the Jayhawk hay stackers, the museum had to replace teeth that had rusted to pieces over the decades. A volunteer ended up cutting wood two-by-sixes as replacements on Friday, just before the festival began.

The museum had two Jayhawks, designed in Salina, Kansas, on display during the festival, one driven by a tractor and the other by a team of horses driven by Lynn Meyer of Maxwell. Henderson, Meyer, and Meyer’s grandson Jett Simpson all ran demonstrations with their teams of workhorses throughout Saturday and Sunday.

“I love it,” Meyer said. “Anything to do with a draft horse, I love it. I grew up with them, ever since I was old enough to be out with Dad on the hay sled in the wintertime.”

Training horses to pull equipment, Henderson explained, is simple: you have to teach the animal to ignore the vibrations and noises around them. The easiest way to do that is to work with the animals.

“You just spend time with them and work them on different things,” he said. “Usually what they do is, they’ll start a young horse with an old, broke horse, or two broke horses with two young horses, and let the old horses do most of the training instead of the guy driving them. That way, they just learn by doing.”

And, of course, visitors got to pick their own potatoes. It ends up being one of the most popular events at the festival by allowing older generations to connect with their grandchildren.

“At one time, back in the ’40s, they let school out to let the kids go pick potatoes up,” Sandberg said. “A lot of people bring their grandkids because they want them to experience picking up potatoes just like they did when they were kids.”

The Harvest Festival continues on Sunday, starting with a church service at 9 a.m. and continuing until 4 p.m.

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