WMSTR is a four-generation tradition

Following in their family’s footsteps, Hazel and Landon Chisholm enjoy every moment at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion. (Photo/Shahnee Chisholm, 2019.)

Of course Shahnee Chisholm, husband Alex and their two kids will be at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag, Minnesota. The four-day exhibition celebrating old-time agriculture is a family tradition for their family and for thousands of others, going all the way back to 1940.

The Chisholm kids – Landon, 7, and Hazel, 5 – are following in their mother’s footsteps as they run across the busy grounds. “I’m 30, so this year makes 29 years that I’ve attended,” the Moorhead woman says. “I have been there every single year since I was born … except for last year, of course, when it was canceled because of Covid-19.”

Shahnee, the daughter of Gary and Carol Wambach and granddaughter of Robert and Bernadine, all of Georgetown, says the event has something for all ages. Her late grandparents, she notes, attended until they were physically unable, touring the grounds in their last years by golf cart.

For her children, hands-on activities are the big attraction: riding on the steam-powered locomotive or the wooden kids’ train, digging in the sand at the playground, sampling home-made food from church kitchens, and – biggest of all – endless free rides on the carousel.

She and her husband gravitate to the historical side of the weekend. “History is all around you. You can see up close how the settlers live,” she says, mentioning everything from steam threshing rigs and lumber mills to blacksmithing, printing and daily life at home. Alex, she says, wasn’t content to just watch the daily parades after their marriage in 2013. “He was determined to get in the parade himself and fixed up one of our own tractors.” That’s where he’ll be this weekend.

A full day at the Reunion begins and ends with eating. The family starts out early with a hearty breakfast at one of the church kitchens. By mid-morning, they’re lined up for “the best rommegrot you’ll ever taste,” she says. “If you don’t get there right away, they might run out.” Then it’s open-faced turkey sandwiches Saturday or Swedish meatballs Sunday.

By the end of the day, her kids are tuckered out, so the Chisholms have been missing a favorite nighttime attraction. “The Sparks Show is really something to see. An engine comes out with sparks flying across the dark sky,” she says appreciatively. (Dry conditions may limit that this year.)

“We just enjoy the community spirit of it,” she concludes. “I guess we’re old-time souls. We just love the atmosphere.”

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