Prairie Village draws big crowds, gears up for anniversary in ’12

By Elisa Sand, Madison Daily Leader Staff Reporter
September 1, 2011

This year’s Steam Threshing Jamboree attracted strong crowds for the three-day event at the historic village west of Madison. Stan Rauch, manager at Prairie Village, said the 78-degree weather was ideal for visitors on Friday and Saturday. Even with a morning rain shower on Sunday, events were back on track by 10:30 a.m.

As always, attendance is difficult to measure, but Rauch said several factors indicate it was another big show. “We had a lot of tractors this year,” he said. There were 700 tracors on display with 153 in Friday’s machinery parade. “That’s the most we’ve had on a Friday since 1998,” Rauch said. Saturday’s machinery parade featured 212 entries. More than 1,000 people also rode the train on Saturday. “Overall, it was a big success,” Rauch said.

This year’s show featured stationary engines, orphan and acreage tractors, and regional lawn and garden equipment. Rauch said that feature attracted 58 exhibitors, some of which showed multiple machines. “I suspect overall it might not have been as large as the last couple, but it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t highly successful,” Rauch said.

Once again, the flea market maxed out at about 100 vendors and the Auxiliary Kitchen was extremely busy, even running out and having to replenish its offerings. “That’s one indicator that it was big,” he said. “The Cook Shack sold a lot of food. Indicators like that show it’s a good, sold jamboree.”

Camping demand was high also. “We were definitely full to the gills for camping,” Rauch said. Most electrical camping sites are reserved within a couple of days of the previous year’s jamboree, but Rauch said not all those campers come the following year, and most call in advance to cancel their reservation so their camping spots can be used by someone else. When cancellations come in, Rauch said, people on the standby list are typically notified that an electrical site is available.

Campers and exhibitors are also coming earlier each year. “It seems that each year people show up earlier,” Rauch said. “Where we really notice it is with the campers.” Rauch said he has no problem with getting campers settled early in the week, but a few came as early as the weekend before the jamboree and were surprise to find campers in their spots. When that happened, Rauch said, he explained that those campers were at Prairie Village for regular weekend camping and the Jamboree didn’t start until the following week.

This was the first year that golf cart rentals were available. Rauch said all available golf carts were rented by 11:30 a.m. Saturday and rentals were a little slower on Sunday, but he heard several comments from visitors saying they wouldn’t have been able to come, had the carts not been available.

As the books close on the 2011 Jamboree, work commences on the 2012 anniversary event which, by all accounts, could be one for the record books. “Next year will be immense,” Rauch said. “We’re getting so much interest already.” The 2012 feature for the 50th Anniversary Threshing Jamboree is John Deere. Rauch said that feature alone is guaranteed to draw a big crowd. Because it’s the anniversary celebration, board members already plan to extend the jamboree by another day, starting festivities on Thursday. Officials are already looking at parking needs and potential needs for transporting people to the grounds.

“We know next year will be huge,” he said. Attendance over the past few years has steadily increased, Rauch said, and 2012 could be the largest jamboree in history. Details continue to come together, but Rauch said that The Great Pretenders, which performed this year, have already committed as entertainers in 2012.

Hosting a four-day Jamboree will be tough on volunteers however. “They already work hard for the three days,” Rauch said, indicating that this year the Cook Shack even opened a day early.