Homestead Harvest Days is a festival like none other. It’s a real-life history lesson given over three days.
Vintage farm equipment will be used to perform chores as they were done in the late 1800s. In the Living History area, actors portray early settlers. There’s also a blacksmith, vintage fire equipment, horse-drawn machinery in action, wheat threshing, a children’s play area and more.
“It’s a real family-centered event.” said Lynn Hargus, president of the Highland Historical Society, which puts on the event.
This year marks the 28th annual Homestead Harvest Days, which will be held Sept. 11-13 at the Latzer Homestead, 1464 Old Trenton Road in Highland. Admission is $3 on Friday and $5 on Saturday and Sunday. Three-day passes are $8.
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As always the tractors, steam engines and gas engines will be doing their work in the field.
The sawmill, powered by a steam engine, will be cutting boards and the shingle mill will cut cedar shingles.
The stone crusher will make stones into lime and the flour mill will grind wheat.
A favorite attraction is the threshing of wheat. Men will throw bundles of wheat into the tractor-powered thresher, just like in the early 1900s.
Other displays throughout the day include corn shelling and shredding, hay loading and baling, and silage cutting.
There are barn displays, and a festival favorite, Gerry’s Potato Patch is back, where they plow up potatoes and give you a bag to take home for supper.
The featured tractor this year is Ford/Fordson, and the featured gas engine is Economy.
Wayne Fieg, who has worked at Harvest Days for many years, is back as the blacksmith. He will work at the north end of the gas engine pavilion, where a large variety of gas engines will perform the tasks of a working farm, from shelling corn to pumping water. All of these engines were valuable to the early farmer.
Out in the field is another favorite stop, the horses and mules, sponsored by First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust. Multiple teams plow the fields in the manner of early farmers. The beautiful and strong teams cut through the earth and make a very educational display.
Living History Area
Another favorite stop is the Living History Area. Groups from the French Army, French Marines, Illinois Rangers, Civil War, American Revolution and frontiersman will educate and entertain you. They perform tasks of the time, including the preparation of their meals. You can see camps and watch them do marching drills throughout the day.
Along the pond are the vintage fire engines. The men love to answer questions and have fun with the water spray over the pond. They are sponsored by the TheBANK of Edwardsville.
As always, the Louis Latzer Homestead and the Pet Mill Diorama will be open for tours. The Homestead is the preserved 1901 home of the founder of PET Milk, which the Highland Historical Society maintains. Many of the original furnishings are in the home. The diorama is a 30-foot working miniature of the original PET Milk factory.
Parade of Power
To wind down each day, there is a Parade of Power — 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. This is an impressive, narrated parade of the restored equipment on the grounds. On Sunday at 9 a.m., the tractors leave the grounds for a parade into town, past elder care facilities and then back to the grounds.
This year’s children’s area will have the Rainbow Ranch Petting Zoo, sponsored by Oberbeck Grain Co., Spengel-Boulanger Funeral Home and Dr. James Rehberger, D.C.
A revised puppet show by puppeteer Ron Place is returning this year and is sponsored by Kathy Sippo, Coldwell Banker Brown Realtor.
There will be pony rides by Wonder Livestock for $5 each.
The pedal tractor pull will rev up at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. There is competition by weight classes. Register at the Visitor Center.
Another favorite is the Corn Box, where children can scoop, dump and roll. Many parents and grandparents in the box, too.
Farm Equipment Auction
A farm equipment auction will be held at 10 a.m. on Sunday. Tools, farm equipment and other farm-related items can be consigned or donated. Virgil Straeter is the auctioneer. To register your items call (618) 654-7102.
The silent auction is now held on Saturday and Sunday. The variety and quality of items make you want to be there to bid both days. There will be crafted items, theme baskets, books, antiques and gift certificates.
Craft & Flea Market
There is a Craft and Flea Market on the grounds. To register as a vendor call (618) 654-6781.
Entertainment will be in the large pavilion. Scheduled on Saturday is David Shake, with his easy-going country melodies, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A new group, The Chris Tally Trio, is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., on Sunday, and then Nice n Easy will follow until 3 p.m.
The Homespun Players will be on the front lawn with their dulcimer music from 1 to 3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
There is always plenty of good home cooking at the Homestead, from breakfast to early supper. Once again, the Big Bell Boys BBQ will supply the Feeding Trough with their sumptuous meats. There are all the other trappings served in the Trough, as well as in the Chicken Coop Café. The round out the day with pie and ice cream and other desserts from the Sweet Shop I & II.