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Steam Fest gears up in Hopewell

Twenty-three years ago Michael McCauley and his wife Shirley got married atop an antique tractor at the 1995 Pageant of Steam — fitting for a pair whose roots run deep with the annual pageant now underway on Gehan Road in Hopewell.

Like his father before him, Michael is all about the antique steam-powered equipment. Head engineer for pageant sponsor New York Steam Engines Association, Michael on opening day Wednesday showed off the massive machinery inside and around the main building on the 100-acre grounds dedicated to the event in its 58th year.

The Pageant of Steam runs 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day through Saturday. Along with a vast display of tractors and showcase of working steam-powered equipment, pageant festivities include live music, demonstrations, a flea market, tractor pulls, a daily parade and food vendors.

Outside the building where steam engines hummed, one of the youngest members of the New York Steam Engines Association kept up the pace feeding wood into the firebox of a Lucy railroad-style boiler. Boiler tender Chandler Church, 13, was reluctant to break away from his work but agreed to a quick photo with members of the McCauley family, who are all involved with the pageant.

The Lucy uses thousands of gallons of water and over the four-day pageant will go through 14 cords of wood in making steam. Keeping the Lucy and other engines fed is not too much work for Chandler or others who find fascinating the intricate and carefully-engineered steam-powered engines of yesteryear.

Visitors to the pageant come from all over. Some don’t own or work on engines but love to look at them. John Toton of Palmer, Massachusetts, is one of those. He was walking through rows of antique tractors on opening day, taking in the different models. Toton, a retiree who likes to visit the Canandaigua area for its views and agriculture, said the pageant is a highlight.

Just before a huge downpour Wednesday morning, Chandler and members of the McCauley family posed for a photo in front of a big orange Fishkill Corliss steam engine. Michael said the engine made in Fishkill, New York, dates back to the 1880s. It’s the only one like it in the world, with its two cylinders and rope drive, he said. It was on display but not functioning — a work in progress to get it going for a future pageant, Michael said.

Karen Chafer, Michael’s mom, talked about her beginnings with the pageant as its secretary when it started in 1960. The first 11 years of the show were held at different locations, one being Roseland Park. In 1971, 28 acres were purchased on Gehan Road for the show that now covers some 100 acres.

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