EASTON — The Tuckahoe Steam & Gas Association show, one of the largest events in Talbot County, is returning this year for the weekend starting Thursday, July 8. The festival celebrating rural life, antique machinery and historic engines, trains and tractors is expected to attract thousands for its 48th annual show.
The Easton show was canceled last year because of the COVID pandemic, but organizers are promising a big comeback with about 200 volunteers lined up and 100 flea marketers slated to sell antique goods and wares.
Tuckahoe Steam & Gas Association typically attracts 5,000 to 10,000 people every year, and this year’s show is expected to draw similar crowd sizes again with pandemic restrictions now lifted, said Pat Harvey, vice president of the TSGA.
“We definitely do at least 5,000 a year,” said Harvey. “That’s our desire.”
Admission to the show is just $6 per person, and all proceeds go toward supporting the next annual event.
This year, only a few items on display are new, Harvey said, which includes an antique tool and craft box. TSGA, however, is just excited to get people back on the grounds off of U.S. Route 50 (Ocean Gateway) to see the hallmarks of past Eastern Shore life. The festival, which began in 1974, is an important platform to teach local history.
“We have a lot of people who have moved into the area who just don’t know” about historic rural life on the Shore, said Harvey, whose father helped establish TSGA. “When we started, we just displayed stuff and people would come and visit and they would go, ‘Oh, grandma had one of those on the front porch.’
“The people coming in here today have no idea what this stuff is,” she said. “They have never seen it and have no connection to it. We’re trying to develop it ... so people can come in here and see it and make some kind of connection to it.”
Upon entering the 60-acre grounds of TSGA, festival-goers typically start by touring large grassy fields packed with vendors, tractors, historic machinery and engines. Volunteers bring their own family displays, and are eager to explain how the machines and vehicles work to interested tourists.
“All the way to the railroad tracks and all the way to the ditch will be full of gas engines. They’ll be everywhere out there and they bring different little displays with them,” Harvey said. “We can hear the sounds of all those engines running all the different noises. It’s funny to be here Sunday after everything gone because it’s unbelievably quiet.”
Children can take rides on a small train within the grounds, while a full-size train for adults will also operate on a track circling the main plaza.
Numerous buildings dot the festival grounds, including a rural life museum with a model country store and various donated antiques, such as a historic Ford car, broom-making machines and unique farm tools. Other buildings include a machine shop, a steam engine room, a blacksmith shop, a full display of classic gas engines, and even a sawmill — all of the stations will be in live operation during the show.
“It’s like a car show for antiques,” said Harvey.
One big hit every year is a natural gas engine from the famous Clark Brothers company. The old machine from the early 20th Century was previously owned by the steel company Carnegie, and was pulled from a natural gas pumping station in West Virginia. The massive engine will be running during the festival and will be operated by John Adkins, a volunteer member since 1974.
“It’s kind of loud,” Adkins said, explaining it was one of just nine natural gas engines owned by Carnegie to supply power to its factories. “They pumped it out of the wells, which went to the station, and from there they pumped it to Bethlehem Steel in Pittsburgh.”
Each destination will host at least one volunteer like Adkins. Volunteers run various engines and machinery and are passionate about discussing what they bring to the show, said Paul Wysocki, a volunteer for about six years.
“The volunteers love to talk and explain (how the machines work) to people,” said Wysocki, saying the event is “full of happy people. The best thing in the world to me is to be around happy people.”
Thursday’s festivities begin at noon and end around 6 p.m, while each day thereafter starts at 7 a.m. and winds down in the evening.
The daily show launches with a breakfast at the local dining hall, a performance of the national anthem, and a speech from the president of TSGA. Various demonstrations are held throughout the day at a small arena and field on the grounds.
The festival runs through Sunday, July 11, with small parades on Friday and Saturday. A live auction for antiques will be held on Saturday.
Flat Land Drive will play live bluegrass music on Friday night, and another musical group, Bordertown, will play Saturday night. Demonstrations for a horse pull will be on Friday, while Saturday and Sunday will both feature a tractor pull.