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Rural past comes to life at Harvest Fest

Volunteers thresh wheat using an old-fashioned Threshing machine at the 20th annual Harvest Fest at The Kusileks’ Hillside Farm Sunday, Aug. 25. The machine is driven by a belt attached to the tractor. It splits the wheat grain from the straw which is used as bedding for animals. The grain will be used for flour.1 / 3
Everyone who worked as a bar tender, cook, or server at Harvest Fest decided collectively to donate their tip money--a total of $278--to support the Tri-Angels Playground, planned to be built in River Falls in memory of the late Schaffhausen sisters Amara, Sophie and Cecilia. Pictured, front row, from left, are: Lilly, Hailey, Eric, Faith, and Tate Fjetland; second row, from left: Dave Kusilek, Jeff Fjetland, Tiffany Fjetland, Leah Fjetland, Renee Kusilek, Hunter Fjetland and (back) Ron Labinski. 2 / 3
Doug Bailey saws a log into boards with an antique sawmill. Bailey has been running sawmills for a long time, according to his wife Rose Marie. Doug, Rose Marie and her son Wyatt came to Harvest Fest from Prescott. They first attended last year after hearing about the event from a friend who works at David Kusilek’s farm. 3 / 3

David Kusilek and about 50 family and friend volunteers brought a few pieces of farming history to life over the weekend with the chugging of old tractors and the whirring, humming and even roaring of antique farm implements.

“It’s just a whole different world,” Kusilek said.

Kusilek and the volunteers held their 20th annual Harvest Fest at the Kusilek Hillside Farm, N10175 690th Ave., from Friday, Aug. 23 through Sunday, Aug. 25.

Harvest Fest began 20 years ago as a threshing bee. Back then about 50 showed up for the grilled roast beef, a tent, and a keg of beer brought by a neighbor.

What started as a neighborhood threshing bee has now grown into a three-day event featuring demonstrations of old farm implements; tractor, antique tractor and truck pulls; barn dance; raffles; petting zoo; and more.

Despite all this growth, David Kusilek said Harvest Fest is still very much a neighborly event.

Many of Kusilek’s neighbors bring their own antique tractors and farm implements to Harvest Fest. Many also work as cooks or bartenders,

help run antique farm implements, help run tractor and truck pulls or help make Harvest Fest possible in other ways.

Kusilek said this year’s Harvest Fest was a success, despite the extreme heat that kept many away Sunday.

“It was a nice weekend,” Kusilek said. “It was a very good success.”

The Harvest Fest antique machinery demonstrated included the threshing machine, which separates grain from it's stalks; a sawmill, which resembles an overgrown table saw and saws round logs into flat boards; and a silo-filler which chops whole stalks of corn into little bits and--normally--shoots them into a silo. The silage will eventually be eaten by cows.

When the old farm implements are up and running, Harvest-Fest-goers often stand around and watch to see how they work.

“The people really enjoy that,” David Kusilek said. “Because they don’t (often) get to see these kinds of shows...”

Kusilek said one reason antique farm implement demonstrations are rare, is because not many people know how to use them.

“The only way I know at my age is from my elders,” said Kusilek, 57, “If they didn’t teach me how to do it, I would not know.”

Kusilek has passed the knowledge down to his sons, neighbors and friends, but that’s only a handful of people. When he’s no longer able to run Harvest Fest, Kusilek said, he hopes one of that handful will take it over.

“It’s (taken) a lot of work to get it this far and I just hope that somebody takes it over and makes it keep going,” Kusilek said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Giving Back

Many of the roughly 50 volunteers it takes to run the Harvest Fest are in the kitchen. They, serve pop and beer at the bar or serve food to customers.

Though they don’t typically make much for tips, the group usually donates what money they make to a local charity, according to Jon Kusilek, David Kusilek’s cousin and one of the volunteers that made Harvest Fest happen.

Jon Kusilek said the group made a total of $278 in tips this year. The group voted unanimously Sunday to donate the money to the Tri-Angels Playground, to be built in River Falls in memory of Amara, Sophie and Cecilia Schaffhausen, who were killed last summer.

“We’d like to keep our donation local, going to a good cause,” Jon Kusilek said.

Next year, the name of the charity the tips will go to will be on the tip jar, Jon Kusilek said.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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