The Northeast Rockbusters annual spring show in Richmond, R.I., was held the weekend of May 30 to 31 at the Washington County Fairgrounds.
More than 1,400 paid guests and hundreds of children watched as chapter members brought in heavy iron of every possible age, shape and era — working iron to dig out stumps, break boulders and move dirt.
Two events highlighted the show: One, the Northeast Blockbusters began building a new road for the very fairgrounds that hosted them. And two, member Jim Nelson, of Middleboro, Mass., brought his 1906 Western pull grader to the fair. Organizers had planned to hook it up to a tractor to demonstrate how they used to dig up roads at the beginning of the 20th Century. Instead, Nelson met Jim Cherenzia of Ashaway, R.I., who had brought his two magnificent prize black steeds, Randy and Ranger, for the crowd’s enjoyment. Minutes later, the two men hooked up Cherenzia’s horses to Nelson’s century-old pull grader, a much more elegant pulling agent, and the two pair — men and horses — were off to the delight of hundreds.
“We’ve known each other for about two hours,” said Nelson, just two hours into the show itself on its first day.
More than 125 exhibitors brought 167 pieces of working iron of every conceivable bend to this fair, part of the Historical Construction Equipment Association (HCEA), which is headquartered in Bowling Green, Ohio. Northeast Rockbusters, a chapter of HCEA, is based in New Hampshire with 500 members throughout New England.
“We’ve been at this for 22 years,” said Bill Weston of Northeast Rockbusters, who serves on the National board of directors of HCEA. “Every show that is held brings out different exhibitors with very different pieces of equipment. HCEA has over 5,000 members and Northeast Rockbusters comprise one-tenth of that figure.”
Weston is particularly proud because Richmond, R.I., also will be the site of the HCEA’s National Convention event in the fall of 2010. “These fairs bring people from all over the country and exhibitors and visitors from all over the world to see them,” added Weston.
Steve Yeaw, owner/operator of The Potterville Museum in Scituate, R.I., was among the exhibitors. Yeaw brought a Chase Shingle Mill, patented in 1889, from his home museum, which houses some of the most unusual antique farm equipment in the state.
“There is a fine line between a museum and a junkyard,” said Yeaw, who then demonstrated his finely tuned machine, which spit out perfectly hewn and shaped shingles to the crowd. “Wouldn’t you love to have a shingle like that on your shed?” he asked. Yeaw handed out fake mustaches and eyeglasses and other toys to eager children.
Another interesting member of the group on hand was Peter Hudon of Berkley, Mass., who walked the grounds with a big “For Sale” sign around his neck. Hudon wasn’t selling himself, however, but an excavator, as he walked through the Washington Fair Grounds.
“You have to go where the people are,” said Hudon. “I came to see the show, I’m a member, too, but while I was here, I figured I’d go Old School, the way they did it [sold things] in the day,” he said. “Everybody’s been asking me if I’m for sale. No, but I tell the ladies that I am handy around the house.”
Besides the “For Sale” placard around his neck, Hudon distributed photos of the digging machine at auction to prospective buyers while he strolled.
Hudon found the largest daily crowds at the rock breaking and stump moving all-day demonstrations. People could grab a sandwich and sit on park benches to watch a Bucyrus–Erie (Ohio) with a clam shell bucket dig up and load stumps and a Caterpillar 955H shovel dozer load loam, as well as a Bucyrus-Erie 10B front shovel screen that loam and a Trojan loader move that material, as well as a Caterpillar 225 excavator feeding a rock crusher.
Fred Perry of Somerset, Mass. brought his wife and two small children, Eric, 8, and Alison, 5, to the event. “I love old equipment,” said Perry. “I just like the look of the iron. I grew up in the country. My Dad instilled this love of old equipment and trains and I’ve been chasing them ever since.”
John Mason of Webster, Mass., came down with his photographer girlfriend, Kelly, to admire and to shop the rows and rows of pristine, restored and still operating farm machinery, some a century-old.
“I like this stuff. I’m into this stuff,” said Mason, who has done farming work for years at Tink Hall Farms in Dudley, Mass., and is the owner of M & M Excavators in Webster. “I’m admiring and buying. I just like it all.”
The first antique vehicle that Mason passed was owned by Bob Smith, of Wakefield, R.I. — a 1911 International Harvester High Wheeler, one of 90 or more antique vehicles exhibited at the Northeast Rockbusters Fair in Richmond.
“I tell people it’s got two speeds... slow and slower,” said Smith. “The fact is, this is a horseless carriage and it looks like it should have a horse attached to it; but, it’s motorized.”
Marilyn Smith, no relation, of Barrington, N.H., a member of the board of directors, works “all year round,” to procure exhibitors at the HCEA events. “We have 87 at the moment,” she said in the middle of the first day. “We will likely have more than 100 by tomorrow. In the Northeast events, in New England, you have more of everything.”
Walking the grounds, too, was Bruce Crawford, International President of HCEA, who will bring the National Fair and Convention to Richmond in September 2010. Crawford of Boseawen, N.H., loves to put on demonstrations with working heavy iron. He prefers the vehicles on his lot get some use.
“We would rather do a project for an organization, than dig a hole and fill it back up again,” said Crawford. “This is not just a car show. This is a working show. We’ve got pieces on display here from before the Eisenhower Administration that haven’t seen a coat of paint since that time, but they still work and people have a lot of fun with it.”
The next events of the HCEA and the Northeast Rockbusters include:
• The 23rd Annual Barrington Old Truck Meet, “The Biggest and Best Chapter Antique Truck Show on Earth,” on Aug. 23, 2009, from sun up until 4 p.m. Free admission, giant flea market, food vendors, rain or shine. Located behind Calef’s Country Store, Routes 9 and 125, Barrington, N.H. For more information, call 603/664-9761.
• The Little Rhody Chapter of the Antique Truck Club of America, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine, at the Washington County Fair Grounds, Route 112, Richmond, R.I. $5 entry fee. For more information, call 401/647-7226.
• HCEA National Convention and Antique Equipment Show, Sept. 10 to 12, 2010, Washington County Fair Grounds, Richmond, R.I.