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Full steam ahead in Bird City





BIRD CITY -- Dennis Paden's infatuation with steam engines shows through in his laugh and smile as he talks about days gone by.

"My granddad had a thresher outfit and my dad hauled water to it," he said, recalling his first encounter with a steam engine. "Steam's always fascinated me. There's no limit to the power."

The Norton man stood beside his 1914 engine Thursday at the Tri-State Antique Thresher Show in Bird City, watching his granddaughters do the heavy lifting on the 98-year-old machine.

"At first, they were scared of it," Paden said. "Now, you can't keep them off of it."

The girls -- Brieanna and Bailey Paden from Solomon -- were covered in coal dust and loving every minute of it Thursday, getting the engine ready to wheel around the grounds on the east side of Bird City.

"This is one of the original engines to the show here," he said.

He purchased the engine 27 years ago, but it was a staple prior to that at the Tri-State show, which began 59 years ago.

Dennis Paden's fascination with steam engines goes beyond the full-scale antiques. As he popped the hatch on his van, Paden couldn't help but smile as he revealed his pride and joy for the last 18 months -- a 2-inch scale model of a 110 steam engine. He's worn out drill bits getting everything just right on the model that weighs 200 pounds, compared to his 28,000-pound full-scale engine.

Dennis Paden said he would be taking it out, letting everyone see his progress this weekend, which means he'll have plenty to talk about with people he hasn't seen in a year.

"Nice, nice, friendly people out here," he said of one of the reasons he makes a point to go to the show each year. "We want to teach these young ones the basics part of it. They've got to keep this going."

Steam engines aren't the only things on display at the show, which runs through Saturday. Hundreds of antique tractors, pedal tractors and engines are lined up across the grounds. Live demonstrations are scheduled throughout the day.

"It's so diversified. There's so much different stuff here," said Marsh Hollen, who traveled from Phoenix specifically for the show. "And the people have been here for years and years."

The show is believed to be the biggest and oldest of its kind in the state of Kansas. And adding the small-town atmosphere of Bird City, population 450, gives it a little bit of extra appeal for some, said Deb Smith, a Bird City resident.

"You have the atmosphere of small town America," she said. "And you're seeing people you haven't seen for several years."