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Voyageur's Best Features of 2003

Tractor show

Silver anniversary White Pine Show
White Pine Show celebrates 25 years
by John Grones  |  September 9, 2003

The White Pine Logging and Threshing Show at the Langenbach farm near McGrath, Minn. has made quite a transformation the past 25 years. Back in 1979 the show consisted of eight tractors, 12 exhibitors, and it rained both days. Quite a contrast to the 2003 show that consisted of over 275 tractors, about 225 exhibitors and the sun shining all three days. The parade, which lasts two hours, is held each day.

The show drew over 4,000 people this year, and weather was a contributing factor. Last year, it poured. “There have only been two years out the 25 that it hasn’t rained,” said Nancy Langenbach who organizes the show. “I still remember the first show when it rained both days and there was no shelter. We huddled under the eave of the kitchen. It seemed to be sunny out the following day and that’s why we added the extra day.”

The White Pine show was a dream of Bill and Sylvia Langenbach and their family, that has become reality. According to Bill’s son John, “We’re here to have fun... it’s family entertainment, it’s a good time... and you have to be a little crazy.” The show is so big now that there are as many as 50 volunteers and staff members working the grounds.

Many of them are Langenbachs. John and Nancy have two sons and a daughter working. They all do a little bit of everything. John’s oldest son, Jeremy, works the corn chopper and drives the tractors in the parade; Robby can be found planing wood near the sawmill and Samantha takes care of the buildings and works at the front gate. “Wherever they are needed,” added Nancy.

Todd and Diane also have three children. Their son, Jacob, works in the feed mill and daughter, Stephanie, helps check wrist bands. Daughter, Nicole is seven years old and she sells buttons.

Doug and Sandy have older children who are married and have children of their own. They all pitch in somewhere. Kim is Doug and Sandy’s daughter, and she helps mom in the pop shed. The grandchildren are eager to help as well. Their son, Steven, owns and runs two large steam engines. Doug and Sandy also have two son-in-laws working, Mike Bird and Shanin Klontz.

Another significant helper at the show is Robert Nelson, who is Nancy and Diane’s father. That’s right, John and Todd married sisters, Nancy and Diane Nelson. For those keeping up with the Centennial and All School reunion theme this summer, all four are McGregor graduates. According to Nancy, she married first and Diane saw what a good deal she had. Diane’s response, “That’s not true. There wasn’t much to choose from in McGregor.”

The family relationship has grown right with the show over the years. Robert Nelson became a tractor collector shortly after his girls married the boys. He now has 15 John Deere tractors. The Nelson connection with the show doesn’t stop there. Robert’s son Ricky Nelson (McGregor grad, 1982) helps make shingles and his wife, Kathy (Bottila) Nelson (McGregor grad, 1986) does all the jobs nobody wants to do.

All the help is much needed because the celebration is so big. Exhibitors come from all over. Each year, the miniature city in the country expands. Plans are in place to add another building and the lumber sawed during demonstrations will be used for just that purpose. People come to the show from all over. John Langenbach explained that several people come from all over Minnesota, Wisconsin and other states as well. “We’ve had exhibitors from New Mexico, and we had a guy bring a tractor for quite a few years from southern Indiana.”

One couple from Truman, Minn., had nothing but accolades for the Langenbachs and their show. Lyle and Mary Larsen, who have attended the White Pine Show the past two years, feel this is one of the best shows in the country. “We will be back here next year,” said Mary. “These people (the Langenbachs) are so nice!”

Lyle agreed. “This is one of the nicest shows we go to,” said Lyle who attends an average of 10 shows per year all over the country. Lyle felt there were only two other shows that were about as good as this one. One is in Arizona and the other is the John Deere Expo in New York.

According to Mary, in addition to the White Pine show, next year they will be attending one in Florida and one in Ohio. Lyle and Mary’s tractor was truly a hit at this year’s show. The miniature tractor was completely built by Lyle. The R Diesel dates back to around 1949 to 1954 and was the first diesel marketed by John Deere. To make their exhibit even more interesting, it is driven by Oscar, who, according to Lyle, is the only one who will drive the tractor.

In addition to the many tractor exhibits, there is a little bit of something for everybody. There is an old print shop run by local printer, Mike DeCoursey. His father, Fred DeCoursey, was the publisher of the Mille Lacs Messenger at one time. The DeCoursey family have been a fixture at the White Pine show since 1988 when the Cranston Newspaper Press arrived from McGregor High School. Each year, the press produces the White Pine Times, the official newspaper of the the White Pine Show.

The shingle making has been an attraction since the show started. Ron Weiss, commander of the American Legion in Forest Lake, Minn. was busy branding shingles on Sunday. Ron is a friend of the Langenbachs and he recalls riding the school bus to McGrath School. “Bill Langenbach was my bus driver for 12 years,” said Ron. That was about 60 years ago.” Ron then noted that the shingles come in 50 custom designs and that they sell over 800 of them.

The many exhibits are too numerous to mention, but a few of the main ones include: threshing activities, the White Pine Toy & Model Shop, the Antique Car building, the Caboose, the White Pine Light Plant, the Saw Mill, the Blacksmith Shop, the White Pine Mill and Pump House, the Schlafle Log House, the Post Office, the Tronnes School and buildings full of engines big enough to power small cities.

This is the Silver Anniversary of the White Pine Show and Nancy reminds people not to confuse it with their wedding anniversary. John and Nancy have been married for 27 years. Now Todd and Diane, on the other hand, have been married for 22 years. It won’t be long before there is another Silver Anniversary celebration in the Langenbach family.

This article first appeared in the September 9, 2003 issue of the Voyageur Press.