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There’s just something about Rollag

A young girl was driving this antique tractor down tractor row. NATHAN BOWE/DL NEWSPAPERS1 / 5
Stamping out commorative metal plates on a 1892 steam foraging hammer were Duane Nelson, right, and Virgil DeRung, both of Chisago City, Minn. They made 1,120 plates this year. NATHAN BOWE/DL NEWSPAPERS2 / 5
Hammer and tongs: Dewayne Clark of Hawley makes a tripod at the blacksmith shop. NATHAN BOWE/DL NEWSPAPERS3 / 5
Stoking the boiler of a 1908 tractor are owner Jerred Rubel, left, and Laurance Swanz. NATHAN BOWE/DL NEWSPAPERS4 / 5
Riders on the historic carousel. NATHAN BOWE/DL NEWSPAPERS5 / 5

Get ready to engage all five senses when you enter the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion near Rollag.

The first thing you notice as you get close are the clouds of steam and black smoke spouting high from various sources around the expansive reunion grounds.

When you enter the grounds you’re hit by the sounds — the belching, whistling, thumping sound of the engines, large and small, that bring you back to the time before the internal combustion engine when steam ruled the world.

Some make you realize how older people from the time got their hearing problems — the sound of the huge black Montana Boiler sounding off could wake the dead. And the whistling from the big hard-working steam engines can be deafening.

But the sounds at the reunion can also be delightful: The musicians and their old-time music. The sound of excited children. The antique band organ merrily playing as the merry-go-round twirls to the music.

The smells vary depending on where you are. The hissing, rattling steam engines, of course, assault the nose with burning wood, hot metal and oil.

At the blacksmith shop you smell the sting of red-hot metal.

The concession buildings run by various churches smell of hamburgers, fry bread and popcorn.

For the reunion is also about the food, from the hearty farm breakfasts to the meat-and-potato dinners, and all the ice cream, fries and hot dogs in between.

The sense of touch is also important at the reunion, especially for kids.

You can see a soot-faced young girl steering a hulking, thumping steam-powered tractor down a back road, her father by her side, taking over to steer when a vehicle passes by.

There are young boys kneeling carefully and splitting wood with a hatchet, their father watching closely.

Other kids get ink on their hands as they work an antique letter press, or oil on their shirts as they help coax an obstinate engine back to life.

The sights, sounds, smells, taste and feel of the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion have been a Labor Day weekend tradition for 60 years.

It’s always worth the trip.

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