Rollag steam threshers reunion recriuts thousands of volunteers each year


ROLLAG, Minn. — It takes a staff of over 2,000 volunteers to keep the crowds entertained at the annual Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag, Minn. — but they're always looking for more.

"We can always use more helpers," says WMSTR President Pete Mandt, who is wrapping up his third year in charge of the annual event.

And even though this year's show concluded on Labor Day, anyone who's interested can sign up to be a member, at any time, by emailing the WMSTR secretary at

"It's never too late to get involved," Mandt said, noting that the planning has already begun for next year's show. "There's a variety of things that need to be done... something for every skill set. Just sign up and we can find a place for you somewhere."

In fact, the planning committee is currently working on setting up a series of mini-classes, similar to Rollag's annual Steam School, for learning how to do the various activities that take place at WMSTR each year.

"We have an education committee," Mandt said. "It's (education) part of our mission. We're planning sessions on blacksmithing, threshing and running gas engines for next year, though that's probably going to change from year to year. It's a new thing we're trying out."

As for the aforementioned Steam School, well... all 75 slots are already filled for the 2019 event.

"We do have a waiting list," Mandt said.

Held every Father's Day weekend at Rollag's Steamer Hill, the University of Rollag Steam School is a two-day course designed to provide the fundamental training — both hands on, and classroom — to prepare new (or not so new) steam enthusiasts to be safe operators, and provide important information to aid them in preparation for their Minnesota Hobby Boilers Exam.

"All steam engineers are required to be licensed (by the State of Minnesota)," Mandt said.

The WMSTR Steam School is the only training course approved by the State of Minnesota that's not provided by a state-run entity, he added. Anyone who's interested in being put on the waiting list, or signing up for the 2020 class, should contact Tom Hall by sending a letter to: Tom Hall, P.O. Box 999, Moorhead MN 56561.

Strong turnout

Steam engines, gas engines and horse-drawn vehicles of every size and description could be found running around the grounds at Rollag this past Friday through Monday, Aug. 31-Sept. 3 — including some pretty unusual ones, as the 65th annual WMSTR showcased homemade farm equipment and Galloway gas engines.

Crowds were strong and steady throughout the four-day event, in part due to the good weather that dominated the holiday weekend.

"We had a pretty good show, with lots of nice weather," Mandt said. "There was a little rain on Sunday morning, but it turned out to be a great day... not too hot, not too cold."

Saturday's turnout was particularly strong, he added, judging by the number of vehicles parked in the large open field adjacent to the grounds.

"We don't really keep track (of attendance)," he added, noting that the combination of selling both single-day and full-weekend passes makes it difficult to judge the exact number of people on the grounds on any given day.

"It was another good year," Mandt said. "It's amazing how many people show up to support us. I've met people from all over the country out here, and they're amazed at how we're able to pull it all together. It doesn't happen like that anywhere else."

The 2019 WMSTR is set to take place Aug. 30-Sept. 2, and will feature Case-IH machines.

"It's always been on Labor Day weekend, at least as long as I've been involved with it," said Mandt. "Next year we're going to have an expo featuring the Case line of farm equipment, which is usually a real big show. Case in the past has been a really popular one, and there'll be a few things people probably haven't seen before."

For more information about the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion at Rollag, visit the website at