By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
NEW BALTIMORE — Agriculture is a huge part of the area’s heritage, and the annual Agfest celebrates the culture of farming and its place in local society.
This year’s Agfest was held this past weekend, June 3 and 4. The event is held at the Van Etten Farm each June.
“We have been doing this for 31 or 32 years,” said Shelly Van Etten. “We’ve always done it — it’s a great event. We like to give back to the community what we can and that’s why we do it.”
The two-day Agfest, also known as the Antique Machinery and Agricultural Festival, puts a spotlight on farming equipment dating back as far as 100 years or more.
Brothers Tom and Ed Curtis had a display of engines that were used to power farming equipment a century ago.
“These are hit-and-miss engines,” Ed Curtis said, pointing to a United Type A, 4-horsepower engine manufactured in 1914. “They would run water pumps or feed grinders, buzz saws and corn shellers. They power other equipment on a farm.”
The brothers also brought a 100-year-old Case steam engine that runs on burning firewood.
“It was sold to a quarry for rock crushing and freighting — moving wagons of stone,” Ed Curtis said. “It still runs.”
Tom Curtis said he and his brother got started as collectors of antique farm machinery through their grandfather, who introduced them to the hobby when they were kids.
“My grandfather got us started in this and we just kept on going,” Tom Curtis said. “It does take a lot of maintenance. We work on them all the time.”
Agfest also had something new this year — a competitive car show for owners of antique and classic cars and trucks.
Richard Mueller won in the Best Car category with his ’68 Mustang. Visitors to the car show voted to determine the winners. Mueller’s car has won trophies at numerous car shows around the region.
“I’ve got quite a few (trophies) so far — 26 of them,” Mueller said. “I’ve had the car since high school, for 53 years. It was six months old when I got it. I did a total restoration on it. It needed work — it sat outside since the day it was made and that took its toll on it, so I had to restore it.”
Charlie Biers, owner of Charles Biers Enterprises, sponsored the contest.
“This is the first time we did a car show at Agfest,” Biers said. “Our company donated the awards and the second-place shirts that were given out. We didn’t know how big this was going to be and it was put together at the last minute. The promotion didn’t start until two months ago, but we had a little over 30 cars and five trophies were given out.”
Biers’ 1986 Chevy won first place in the Best Truck division with the most People’s Choice votes in the category.
The number of cars entered into the contest was gratifying, he said.
“For the first year, this was a very good turnout,” Biers said. “I hope everyone who was here this year comes back next year.”
Richard Snyder, who grew up in Coeymans Hollow but now lives in Cobleskill, said he comes to Agfest each year — and it brings back memories.
“I come every year. I used to work on this farm as a kid,” Snyder said. “I didn’t get paid, but I came and hung around. It’s awesome to come back here and see the farm again, and I get to see people I haven’t seen in 40 years.”
Throughout the two days of the festival, there were also demonstrations of radio-controlled airplanes by the Flying Knights RC Club, and some visitors got to try their hand at running a training plane.
“Yesterday I had more girls here than when I was coaching softball,” quipped club member Joe Messina. “Usually, the girls are better at this than the guys.”
The club was looking to let people know about the hobby and give them a chance to give it a whirl.
“Part of what we do is to expose people to this — anyone can give it a try or they can just watch,” Messina said.
Flying conditions were better on Saturday than on Sunday, as high winds on the festival’s second day hampered the planes’ flights.