In 1957, after holding its reunion at Porter's sawmill for a few years, the Pioneer Engineers Club was once again on a search for suitable place to gather. An agreement was reached with the Rush County Conservation Club that the club could hold its reunion on their grounds. Members of the Pioneer Engineers Club got to work at the grounds clearing saplings and setting up a sawmill. All their effort paid off, and a successful show was held that first year. It was in this same year that our club became incorporated as a non-profit organization under the statutes of Indiana law.
Our club has used these grounds ever since. The way the ground lays provides a natural amphitheater for viewing our parade or just sitting back and getting an overview of the various activities that go on at our show. This layout was appreciated as well from 1857 - 1917 when these grounds were used for the Rush County Fair. The 4-H Horse & Pony Saddle Club uses a portion of these grounds as well. This too is a throwback to those old days when horse races were such a big attraction at the fair held here. Rush County has a rich horseracing history.
Our club was able to expand the features and attractions at our show with the extra space at the Conservation Club. Our members began to bring gas tractors and hit & miss engines and the various machines and implements that they would power. A parade of engines soon became a much anticipated tradition.
In the 1970's and 80's, there was a kind of changing of the guard as many of the original members passed the torch of leadership on to a younger generation. These youthful people brought fresh ideas, skills, and enthusiasm to our club while respecting the tradition begun by their predecessors. We began to have displays and demonstrations on top of the hill. These have been many and varied through the years with some being a one-time event and others returning like a faithful friend each year. There has been a blacksmith, a coppersmith, a potter, demonstrations on how to make rope, brooms, and woven wire fence, an old-time popcorn popper, displays of wrenches and apple peelers, and a wool crafting area, to name a few.
A coppersmith displays his wares on the hilltop.
We were able to have a flea market area and increase the number of food vendors. There was space for camping and a good place to hold a tractor pull. Two different church services were offered, and our ability to serve our members and visitors was improved by building a small office and souvenir shop. The attraction of live entertainment was added with dancers, a band, a fiddle contest, clowns, and the like. A conscious attempt was made to feature attractions for all ages with kids' games and a pedal tractor pull.
Our tractor display area was greatly enlarged when we moved the Horse and Pony Club's buildings and began to rent 13 adjoining acres for parking back in the 80's. This also freed up additional space for steam engine displays and demonstrations. It was during this time that we improved the grounds by planting more shade trees, doing some landscaping, and constructing a large flower bed.
Part of the tree planting crew.
Our years at the Conservation Club were very fruitful. We enjoyed many picture-perfect years and endured some incredibly wet and unbearably hot ones. We cleaned up, built up and tore down for 50 years. Through it all we always looked to continuously improve and expand the experience that is our annual reunion.