A harvest of history
By Mike Nolan firstname.lastname@example.org September 8, 2013 9:22PM
Wood sculptor Bud Hainzinger shows off various chainsaws he was using Sunday at the Homer Harvest Days festival in Homer Township. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 10, 2013 6:34AM
As he has at past Homer Harvest Days festivals, Dale Hostert showed off a display of farm tractors, including a 1936 McCormick-Deering that his dad and uncle rode on when they were boys.
One tractor, borrowed from a neighbor for the display, was missing, however. The neighbor had to come get it Sunday morning to cut hay, Hostert explained.
While the number of farms in the region has dwindled — countless acres plowed under for subdivisions — the importance of agriculture to the area was a highlight of the festival, which itself is held on property once farmed by Charles Trantina. The land was purchased by Homer Township in the 1990s to preserve as open space.
Land that Hostert once farmed, near 151st Street and Interstate 355, was also bought by the township for that purpose.
The six tractors he showed off represent “the sentimental value of the area,” Hostert said. He also had aerial photos of former farms in the area, including the Trantina property, where Hostert’s dad, Sylvester “Dutch” Hostert, worked for a time as a hired hand.
Hostert had what he called a “hobby” farm, 60 acres he leased where he raised corn, soybeans and wheat. His full-time job was as a machinist at Humphey & Sons in Joliet.
“A lot of the old timers come past Dale’s (tractors) and never leave,” Randy Juras, a member of the Harvest Days committee, said.
The displays of “living history” throughout the festival were meant to be educational and entertaining, he said. The festival also offers attractions that not only appeal to all ages, but offer a different spin on what’s typically offered, Linsey Sowa, chairman of the festival committee, said.
“You can go to a carnival or beer tent in any community,” Sowa, who is township clerk, said. “There is nothing like this anywhere.”
If festival-goers didn’t actually see Taylor’s Battery, a group of Civil War re-enactors, they certainly heard them. At the top of each hour they fired a blank round from a replica of a Civil War-era cannon, which even from quite a distance away was bone-jarring.
Jerry Stefek, a member of the unit, said the charge used was just a fraction of the powder that would have been required to fire a shell from the 2,000-pound cannon, which had a range of 11/4 miles.
Keeping with the Civil War theme, friends Dave Corbett and Jim Schranz performed as the Battlefield Balladeers. While Schranz was dressed in Union blue and Corbett outfitted in Confederate gray, their armaments consisted of guitars, a harmonica, kazoo and tambourine that Corbett laid on the ground and tapped with his right foot while he strummed and sang.
A native of the southwest suburbs now living in Buffalo Grove, Corbett played Bob Dylan and Jimmy Buffett on acoustic guitar, performing at area venues including a Lemont restaurant. Also a Civil War re-enactor, his play list now includes numbers such as “Oh Susanna,” “The Battle Hymm of the Republic,” and “Yellow Rose of Texas.”
They performed at the opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield and often play at senior citizens centers, Corbett said.
Bud Hainzinger, a wood sculptor from Morris, said he has been carving wood for more than 40 years.
“I started with chisels and knives,” he said.
He does chain saw carving, and has been at Harvest Days the last few years. He attends about 15 such events a year. At the festival, he had at his disposal no fewer than nine chain saws, some with smaller blades that allow him to do more detailed cutting.
Whether he’s carving with hardwood or softwood, each has its advantages and disadvantages, he said.
Unlike a hardwood such as oak, softwood “is kinder” because it’s easier to cut through and the vibrations from the saw are easier on his hands.
“But mistakes happen quicker with softwood,” Hainzinger said.