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Every year the coming of summer is highlighted by different events for different people. For some, it is heralded with the end of school, tilling the garden, or completion of the planting season. To us, connoisseurs of find food, antique tractors, farm toys, crafts, and downright fun, the annual Strawberry Festival means summer is here.
Every year, in Carlinville, Illinois, the Macoupin County Historical Society and the Macoupin Agricultural Antique Association team up to fill the grounds of the Anderson Mansion with the sights and sounds of the festival. The large parcel of land that accompanies the Anderson Mansion is teeming with crafters such as candle makers, rug makers, wood workers, and of course a few tractor parts.
The air is filled with the delectable smell of chicken and noodles that are served up by the historical society members with homemade biscuits and coleslaw. They are always accompanied by fresh strawberry shortcake. On the other ends of the grounds, the smell of grilled pork chops draws a crowd. If visitors don't have a drink in their hand, most likely it is filled with a brimming sack full of fresh kettle corn.
Although we of course refrain from eating absolutely everything, there are some members of our immediate families that feel that without sampling every edible item, the Strawberry festival is well, not the Strawberry Festival. Needless to say, there is something for everyone.
We have been attending the event for several years for the food, and the antique tractor show. This year, almost every make and model was represented from a John Deere B, to a Minneapolis R, and a Massey Harris 30. The tractors are in all states of restoration from those in "original" condition, to show quality. Everyone can recognize the exhibitors by their buttons, and ribbons. They congregate around each others tractors trading restoration stories and comparing notes about trailers and upcoming shows. Visitors bought raffle tickets for a tractor a a child's pedal tractor that will raise funds for the association
Off to one side of the tractors in a space all his own, Roy Lee Baker's son was demonstrating Roy Lee's miniature John Deere B. This two-foot long metal framed toy was made from scratch by Roy Lee in his toy shop near Shipman, Illinois. The toy is fascinating because all the parts move just like the real thing sitting over in the show area. The tractor actually pulled a Ryder wagon behind it at the 16th annual Gateway Mid-America Farm toy show.
In a large red shed, not too far from the Black smith shop where demonstrations were taking place, a toy show was in full swing. Kids (both large and small!) walked by pointing out their favorite brands and counted their cash to see what fit into their budget. Besides the toys and tractors, the one room school house was the sight of bell ringing and story telling by retired school teachers about the "good ole days." One little girls eyes got very big and round as the teacher explained the former use of the ruler as a measure of discipline rather than inches!
Another large building serves as a museum, giving an insight into farm life over the last century thorough the various small machines used everyday. Antique tractors and farm machinery are also displayed providing a sample of what farming used to be like. When Andrew Seiz saw a beautiful horse drawn sled, he said, "I want one of those." We laughed and agreed.
The Mansion itself is a draw that pulls us like a magnet every year when we come. Whether it is the fall festival, or the Strawberry festival, the Anderson mansion always has something inside the beautiful two story home that we had not seen or noticed before. The youngest of our children are both nine and they insist on touring the home. Of course their rapid fire focus is much quicker than our lingering eyes like, but they enjoy the old fashion music room, the exhibit of old Macoupin County one-room school houses, and of course the military museum housed in the attic. When Allison Ladage was asked what she liked best, she replied, "Everything in the house." Our feelings exactly.
The kid's favorite place though is the tower where they can stand three stories plus high and turn in every direction for a clear view of the grounds. The house is a combination of Italiante, Queen Anne, and Stick style. The reason for the variety may be because it started out as a one story home built by John C. and Luciel Anderson. With the addition of eight children, four girls, and four boys, a little more room seemed prudent, so they expanded the home in 1892. Along with a beautiful stained glass window, beveled leaded glass front doors, and an array of antiques, the home is well worth the time and few dollars required for a tour. This year, the house was filled with the smell of honeysuckle. The candles came from a vendor at the festival. The smell was so sweet that the candles found their way home with us after the show!
Hand carved baskets created by Orville Ladage also found their way into our clutches before we drove away. Orville, a retired farmer and carpenter put his skills to use and creates a combination of scroll work wood carvings, and toys. His work is intricate and fascinating.
With this year's deluge of rain in central Illinois, the muddy fields demanded a reprieve from the rolling of the planters, and our farmer husbands took a much needed rest. Although truly frustrated with being unable to finish their task, a little extra good food and fun go a long way to ease the tension. One of the husbands even managed to haul a tractor to the show and taste each and every item available.
With the tractor and trailer back home, and the last take home sample of chicken noodle soup devoured by a daughter that couldn't attend, the festival has come to an end. However for us, the Strawberry Festival's end just signals that summer has begun.
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