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Start your engines

Dayton Old Engine Day is Saturday

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Nate Stevens, left, and John Skoglund, who are part of the planning committee for the upcoming Dayton Old Engine Days, stand with Kenny Sanders at right. Sanders is planning on being in attendance at the old Dayton Light Plant during the day to help showcase one of the plant's original engines.

DAYTON – If you are beginning to plan your Memorial Day weekend festivities, look no further than the southwestern Webster County city of Dayton for Dayton Old Engine Day.

The 10th annual event will be held, rain or shine at the Dayton Oak Park on Saturday. It is sponsored by the Dayton Community Club.

People can plan to compete in a bags tournament; kids can show off their leg strength at the kid’s pedal tractor pull; or try to find that perfect bargain attending the city wide garage sales or visiting the city’s shops.

The highlight of the day, however is Old Engine Day show which will be held from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. The show is open to anything including old engines, classic cars, restored tractors, hotrods, jeeps and more.

The show is free to attend for both spectators as well as exhibitors with the first 100 entries receiving a dash plaque.

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
To help support costs and prizes for Dayton Old Engine Days, the Dayton Community Club is raffling off a John Deere pedal tractor and custom painted pedal car. Tickets can be purchased from participating businesses in Dayton.

Spectators are encouraged to vote for their favorite vehicle and tractor and a “people’s choice” award will be presented at the closing of the show.

Show organizers are anticipating close to 100 entries this year.

“We have better attendance every year,” said Nate Stevens who is helping to organize the show. “We get more cars and spectators each year. It has gone up steadily.”

John Skoglund, who is also helping to spearhead the event, said because Dayton is a farming community, show goers can expect to see a good number of restored antique tractors, but in recent years, cars have been gaining in numbers.

He is anticipating nearby families bringing their collection of John Deere and International tractors as well as another blast from the past some from the Dayton area may remember.

“Leroy Jones will be bringing his restored racecars that back in the ’60s were raced on the track here,” said Skoglund.

Children ages 4 to 11 are invited to compete in the kids’ tractor pull. Register by 12:30 p.m. for the 1 p.m. pull.

There is a raffle for a custom painted pedal car and a 4430 John Deere pedal tractor. Proceeds from the raffle help to keep the pedal tractor pull a free event.

Sign up for the bags tournament is at the club house. The event starts at 3 p.m. Registration is $10 per team with a 100% payout and prizes awarded.

Although this is the 10th annual Dayton Old Engine Day, the history of the event goes back 40 years or more.

Skoglund said the occasion was believed to have been started in the late 1970s or early 1980s and ran up until the mid-1990s or so.

“It was originally held downtown,” he said. “I was sad when it ended. I don’t know how many years it lapsed in between, but now we have it back and running again and it is gaining momentum.”

The location of the show was moved from downtown to Oak Park due to that growth.

“Having moved it out to Oak Park has really helped us because there is a lot more area, shade trees and shelter houses,” he added.

However, just because the majority of the fest ivies are being held at the park, Skoglund encourages people to visit downtown Dayton – especially the old Dayton light plant.

There, people can not only visit what is now the Dayton Museum, but the old engine that once helped to power the town of Dayton.

“We always show off our engine in the old light plant – one of the generator engines – that has been a large draw for years of the Old Engine Day,” said Skoglund.

The Fairbanks Morse model 32E12; three-cylinder; 12 bore x 15 stroke; 277 rpm; 118 kw; 180 horsepower motor was installed at the Dayton Light Plant back in 1939. It was last used to help power the city of Dayton during the ice storm in 1991.

“It has always been a big draw. People always wanted to see the old engine. It is the original motor put in 1939. There was two of them. This is a three-cylinder and there was one-cylinder. A two-cylinder was put in later,” said Kenny Sanders, one of the original organizers of the Dayton Old Engine Day.

In 1959, a new motor was installed and 10 years later Sanders said the light plant was shut down.

But that 1939 engine that had been sitting idle for some time came to the rescue during the Halloween ice storm of 1991 – as did Sanders.

Sanders, a well-known diesel mechanic from Dayton was summoned that cold, icy night.

“When the ice storm came through, somewhere around midnight I got a call. The exact statement was ‘help,'” he said.

Sanders rushed to the light plant and knew he had a lot of work ahead of him.

“They hadn’t ran those engines for quite some time. The light plant was in disarray. They are supposed to have water circulating through them 365 days a year. The water wasn’t circulating because there was no electricity. The air was down. No one had maintained the air and it takes air to start them. I had a gas fired air compressor and I got enough air and I got that little motor started around five in the morning,” said Sanders. “Then I got enough heat in there, I got another motor started. We ran five days here in town on those motors.”

And that motor hasn’t ran since.

“It is still there for people to see,” said Sanders. “When we decided to make the light plant into a museum, I said we are going to keep that motor because it saved the town in 1991.”

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