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History revisited

Rebecca Provost tries to coax her tractor forward another foot during Saturday’s Lakehead Harvest Reunion Steam and Tractor Show. Provost was competing in the 3500-pound class during the tractor pull, driving a 1947 Cockshutt tractor owned by her father-in-law, Ernie Johnson. Jana Peterson / jpeterson@pinejournal.com1 / 6
Steam escapes from a metal trash can filled with corn on the cob that will be sold and eaten after it cooks for 12 minutes. The steam came from a 1902 Minneapolis Steam Traction engine owned by Nick Blotti. The corn is one of the most popular foods at the annual event in rural Esko. Jana Peterson/ jpeterson@pinejournal.com2 / 6
Nick Blotti stands in front of his 1902 Minneapolis Steam Traction engine. Jana Peterson / jpeterson@pinejournal.com3 / 6
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Henry Schoepflin, 7, bites into a freshly steamed ear of corn during Saturday’s Lakehead Harvest Reunion Steam and Tractor Show. Jana Peterson/ jpeterson@pinejournal.com5 / 6
Spectators watch as workers make short work of a pile of logs using an antique sawmill. Jana Peterson / jpeterson@pinejournal.com6 / 6

The first time down the track in the 1947 Cockshutt tractor felt too good to be true for Esko's Rebecca Provost as she pulled the weighted sled all the way to the finish line, more than 220 feet.

That's because it was.

The second time down the track — when officials made sure the weights actually dropped forward like they were supposed to — Provost made it 163.32 feet before the antique tractor started rearing up slightly, unable to move forward any further.

"They just wanted her to beat me because I was on the co-op (tractor)," said Mike Johnson, Provost's husband and the first competitor in the 3,500-pound class.

While she beat him on the run that didn't count, Provost lost their side bet after her second pull. That's OK. It's all in good fun.

"If he won, he had to buy me ice cream," she said. "And if he lost, he had to buy me ice cream."

The antique tractor pull was one of the main attractions Saturday at the Lakehead Harvest Reunion Steam and Tractor Show, which saw more than 1,000 visitors through the gate by 2 p.m. Folks of all ages — some with gray hair and canes who knew what they were looking at, many wide-eyed youngsters who didn't — turned out for the three-day event.

They were greeted by a vision of the past. Old tractor and steam engines roared and spluttered, moving tractors or pulleys that powered other types of machinery. There was threshing, shingle-making and rock crushing, all powered by steam.

In a scene that undoubtedly played out many times in Carlton County more than a century ago, an ancient steam engine puffed away as a group of workers passed log after log back and forth over a giant circular saw, trimming and making lumber with the old-fashioned sawmill.

Not far away the Blotti family was using the steam from their own 1902 Minneapolis Steam Traction engine to cook corn on the cob, one metal trash can full at a time.

The family patriarch, Nick Blotti, has owned the massive steam engine for 57 years, as long as the Lakehead Harvest show has been in existence. The goals of the nonprofit group that runs the event are to bring back memories and teach younger generations about antique agricultural machinery through demonstration.

In between greeting old friends, Blotti explained that the steam engine was originally unloaded in Moose Lake in 1902, then taken to Kettle River to power a sawmill. Next it was sold to a shingle mill in Floodwood. He used the money his wife was saving for new kitchen cabinets to buy it in the 1960s.

For the past 15 years, Blotti and his kids and grandkids have been using the antique machine to steam corn, which they sell at $1 an ear to customers who stand in line for the healthy treat. Freshly dug potatoes are for sale over by the exit, grown in the back field and dug by machine as part of the show.

There's lots to do and see.

As 7-year-old Henry Schoepflin chomped on an ear of corn, his father, Jake, eyed the tractor pull. The family lives in Esko, after moving to the area from Kansas two years ago. It was their first time at the steam and tractor show.

"It's like a little bit of home," Jake said.

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