Valmy Thresheree Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Annual event shares the history of farming and fosters an appreciation for modern agriculture

The Northeastern Wisconsin Antique Power Association is toasting 40 years of the annual Valmy Thresheree, a celebration of agricultural history Aug. 18-20. From tractor pulls to pig wrestling, the thresheree’s events memorialize an old-fashioned Wisconsin farm. 

For association member Ralph Bochek, hosting the thresheree every August is a way to help ensure that younger generations learn the history of farming that’s often taken for granted, as well as gain an appreciation for modern agriculture. 

“Meat doesn’t come from Walmart; it comes from a farm,” Bochek said. “It’s shocking how many people don’t realize what it really takes to get the food that you eat every day. It doesn’t come from the store; it comes from a farmer. You have to thank the farmer, and the truck driver who gets it to you – there’s a lot more to it.” 

The word “thresheree” comes from “thresher,” a machine that separates grain from the plant stalk. In addition to antique threshers, the Northeastern Wisconsin Antique Power Association has dozens of pieces of antique machinery such as cow-milking devices, tractors and even an early-1900s sleigh bus that transported children to and from school in the winter. A majority of the antiques showcased in the thresheree still work, and in fact, the association owns 40 acres of adjacent land that members farm exclusively with antique machinery. 

“It’s a living museum,” Bocheck said. “Here at the show, you’ll see a lot of our equipment working – stuff that’s 120, 130-plus years old working, as it did in its years of being used.” 

Many of the antiques are donated, according to association president Don Rudolph, but others are salvaged from farms across northeastern Wisconsin. 

“There are a lot of barns that are deteriorating and falling in,” Rudolph said, “and many times people call us and ask if there is anything we might find of interest.” 

The weekend kicks off Friday with live music by 3 Miles Away and free entry, 6-11 pm, to celebrate the anniversary. 

On Saturday, watch an antique-chainsaw competition and tractor pulls in the morning, and enjoy a barn dance and “polka mass” by Jerry Voelker and the Jolly Gents in the afternoon. Saturday ends with music by Modern Day Drifters. 

Sunday starts with a pancake breakfast and Lutheran church service at 8:30 am. Free kids’ games, including a mini tractor pull, and music from the Crystal Creek Band round out the afternoon. Admission Saturday and Sunday is $5 per person, and free for children younger than 12. 

But the highlight of the weekend, according to Rudolph, is pig wrestling, scheduled for Sunday at 3:30 pm. It’s exactly what it sounds like: A team of four has one minute to lift a 180- to 200-pound pig onto a barrel. 

Bochek said it was his idea to start pig wrestling, which was initially met with skepticism from the association. 

“I wanted to do it, but some of the older members thought I was nuts,” he said. “I said, ‘Well, it’ll bring a big crowd, get our thresheree started out right, get people to come in.’ The people who were most against it at first turned out to be most in favor of it.”

The thresheree is introducing an alumni category this year for wrestlers older than 40 who have participated in the pig wrestle previously. It costs $50 to register a team, and the winner receives the total amount made from registration. A dozen or so teams have registered so far, but Bochek said there’s always room for more. 

“The people you most expect to do it don’t do it, and the people you’d bet 500 bucks would never do it come and do it,” Bochek said. “It’s really been strange over the years.”