by Lorraine Strenkowski
July 19 and 20 provided perfect weather for the 18th Annual Zagray Farm Museum Summer Show — an educational family event dedicated to providing a place where the public can explore the evolution of farm life and machinery.
This near 200-acre farm located in eastern Connecticut was set up very much like a fair for this event. There were rows and rows of farm equipment, engine displays, antique vehicles, a tag sale and a swap meet. Plenty of food was provided, as was country music by Jane Haynes and Friends. A kids’ sandbox was set up with toys and pedal tractors to promote interest from the younger crowd. Small to large tractors were driven around freely during the day by event-goers, giving them a true feel for 19th and early 20th century running equipment.
Demonstrations of 1800s-era equipment were ongoing and included an 1873 antique sawmill and an 1860s horizontal shingle mill. A 1903 27” Lane Planer demo, a Connecticut and Northeast Blacksmith Club demo and a tractor parade also comprised the weekend’s events. A free wagon ride offered tours of the property and stopped around the sand pit to offer viewing of the cable shovels, backhoes and dozers. Also available for viewing were several of the farm’s original buildings, including a dairy barn, machine shop, foundry, sawmill and various sheds.
The Zagray Farm Museum is a nonprofit educational farm museum run by the Quinebaug Valley Engineers Association Inc. (QVEA). QVEA was organized for individuals interested in the restoration and collection of antique engines, tractors and machinery. To promote these ideals, in 2001 the QVEA initiated the development of this very farm, formerly owned by the Zagray family — Stanley, Harry and Willie, who had lived on the property their entire lives. These “boys” had applied for several patents and succeeded in securing a few. It was just a year before the 2001 development of the museum, that Harry Zagray granted the QVEA a bill of sale for the extensive equipment and tools collected on the farm, as well as a 99-year lease on the property.
“We parked well over 700 vehicles on Saturday,” says Art Chester, QVEA treasurer. “Sunday was less, with 300 visitors, but we had every piece of machinery running! It’s just something we love to do!”
The restoration of the original buildings is well under way. Current plans include construction of buildings for housing the many different pieces within the QVEA collection of tractors, engines and machinery. Being a “working museum” the focus will be on demonstrating all types of farm equipment and heavy machinery. The grounds will be kept in “as natural a state” as possible, with the addition of picnic pavilions, walkways and benches. The plan is to create an educational, outdoor activity and country “oasis” for families and general public at a minimal cost, while helping to preserve and pass on the wonders of the past to future generations.
Club members routinely gather to restore, maintain, demonstrate and operate the equipment. They also meet monthly in the town of Colchester, CT. At present time, the QVEA has approximately 350 members, primarily from New England. The museum is located at 544 Amston Road, in the towns of Colchester and Hebron.
Zagray Farm’s outdoor summer event
by Lorraine Strenkowski