Nittany Antique Machinery Show

One of my favorite things going on in Penns Valley is the Nittany Antique Machinery Show at Penns Cave, held every spring and fall. It’s a madhouse. On one end of the field, you have a massive flea market, with about 800 vendor spots hawking everything from yard sale wares, to hand painted signs for people’s camps, to sofas and swings, to diabetic socks. On the other end of the field, there’s the really fun part: rows and rows of vintage and antique farm machinery. I love watching the big chugging machines, hooked to tractors, some powered by coal and steam. They plane wood, they make cider. It’s amazing to see how innovative farmers have been, in using their equipment over the years.

Though I’m not actually a straight-up farm kid, I lived on one and grew up around tractors, and have always had reverence for them as a machine – not in the heated “Farmall Vs John Deere” shouting matches you’ll hear floating through the air those weekends, but in the sense that they are incredibly versatile, terrifying and fascinating to watch in action. I remember rides on our neighbor’s tractor being a special treat as a child. It would be absurd to most of my ag cohorts out there to hear me yammering on about their beautiful industrial design, but there you have it.

As fascinating as it is, witnessing farm equipment in action is also quite terrifying, in its raw mechanical power. It stops for nothing, grinding and shrieking and bursting out smoke and steam. Even modern farm equipment is equally scary. I know all too well the reality of the immediate danger of some of those powerful machines. We lost a classmate in high school to a tragic hay baler accident on his farm. A man down the road from us lost his arm in another. Farming is rough, tough business.

After years of attending the Machinery Show and perusing the massive flea market, I decided to participate in the flea market with my fledgling antique dealing business. I had no idea what to expect, but Harlan and I purchased a canopy and set up shop last Thursday. One one side was “The Spice Guy,” a very sweet gentleman with a table stuffed with spices and flavorings. On the other, we had a chaotic family of veteran flea marketers, with a triple-lot setup. We heard them yelling at their sons “Colton Lee” and “Bubba” to behave on an almost constant stream for three days. It was hilarious.

The gigantic mix of people – young, old, foreigners, natives, farmers, dealers, gawkers, and kids – was incredibly entertaining, and quite an eye opener after having done a relatively tame flea market circuit for the past year or two. I loved it. Even though the weather was goofy and we nearly got swept up in a massive thunderstorm, and we didn’t do spectacularly, the experience itself was rich and rewarding, and I learned a LOT. Not once did I go home any of those four days regretting doing the Machinery Show. Harlan and I had a blast. We met weird conspiracy theorists, sweet old ladies, knowledgeable old men, old friends, loudmouths, a girl from Australia, curious hipsters, old farm sages, and straight-up mentally ill people. My favorite was a long-haired man wandering around with a Steelers Terrible Towel worn like an apron, and around his neck was a 9″ cross with big praying hands. He was a strange duck, but very nice. The shirts proclaiming respective tractor loyalties were particularly funny – again, nothing unfamiliar, but when you’re away from the local culture for a while, you remember how fervent the arguments get – almost as bad as the classic Ford vs Chevy battles. I kept a running tab of all the things I saw, what made me laugh, those who touched my heart, the advice I got from the flea market veterans, and who were the most interesting people, to tuck away in my mind for later.

Anyway, I took some pretty sweet pics while I was there! Check them out!

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