Preserving the Past for the Future
PHOTOS AND STORY BY MARIA IANNUCCI
Crossing paths with a tractor is a likely event when riding the roads of Polk County. Whether it’s a farmer plowing a field or a resident mowing an expanse of land, on a modern machine or a family antique, tractors are both a necessity and an attraction to many. For anyone willing to venture to Ft. Meade on one of three weekends a year, a visit to the Florida Flywheelers Antique Engine Club will put you in touch with thousands who share their love of tractors.
The club’s website offers a comprehensive history of its origins. “The Florida Flywheelers Antique Engine Club is a non-profit organization founded in 1972 to promote interest in restoring, preserving and exhibiting antique internal combustion engines, steam engines, antique tractors and autos and other labor saving devices from the by-gone years. This was done by members hosting shows at their homes and farms around the state. As interest in the hobby grew, some of these shows were held at rental facilities that could handle larger public attendance.
“In 1997, it was decided to purchase property in a central location in south Polk County where members could have a show to display their collections to the public without the need to rent facilities. Flywheeler Park has now grown to almost 240 acres and includes a tractor pull track; club and member buildings which house displays, collections and many large engines; and a membership which is over 1,500.
“With the club putting on 3 shows per year at the park, the Florida Flywheelers are able to educate its members and the general public of the historical, technical, and social contributions and impact of these items of the past. One of the goals of the Florida Flywheelers is to be involved in giving back to the local community with our Christmas in the Village in December and the supporting of the local FFA Tractor Restoration Teams. Our mission is to preserve the past for the future.”
The weekend events offer a day full of entertainment and are family friendly. Due to the extent of the acreage to cover, it’s best to trailer a golf cart, or you can rent one if you get there early. Admission is very affordable; plan to spend the entire day if you want to try and see it all. Once you’re in, begin with plowing through acres of vendors selling everything from glassware and antiques to tractors, parts, and vintage advertising signs. The list of items is too long to share.
Once you make it through the sea of vendors, the Old Time Village is a collection of old buildings that includes barns, a church, print shop, sawmill, working blacksmith and dozens more.
Other attractions include an enormous collection of antique steam engines and fire trucks, farm machinery, Cracker House, old time jail, crafts, a plethora of food vendors, and daily parades of vintage vehicles.
So mark your calendars; a visit during a weekday will give you an edge on the crowds. Make plans with family and friends, charge up the golf cart or don your best walking shoes, and bring a bag for your treasure on your visit to the past.
For more information, visit www.floridaflywheelers.org.