Pilgrim, Ebnet showcase running engines 

Don’t be surprised if you hear carousel music coming from the G&K building, filled with engines and memorabilia, on the Albany Pioneer Days Threshing Show grounds Sept. 15-18. 

“I made a Ferris wheel and swing powered with belts and a motor, and we have music playing, so people enjoy the sounds as they watch it,” said Gary Pilgrim, who, along with friend Ken Ebnet, own engines and finagle contraptions in the building. “We like to have engines running something.” 

Ebnet even constructed a bench out of a grain drill for people to sit on outside of the building.  

It is one of many buildings and demonstrations that will be showcased during the 48th annual show, put on by the Stearns County Pioneer Club on the grounds northeast of Albany. This year’s show will feature Ford tractors, equipment and vehicles and Cushman gas engines.

It was engines that brought the Pilgrim family to Pioneer Days years ago. 

“My mom, dad and brother started coming here, and they brought up one engine to display and met so many people, and pretty soon they brought another engine,” Pilgrim said Sept. 7. “In 1991, I did the same thing, and pretty soon I’m here with one engine and now it’s all kinds of them, McCormick, International, John Deere, Wisconsin, Briggs & Stratton, a Call of the West from 1902 and more.”

Three generations of Pilgrims, from Pillager, have pitched in during Pioneer Days, starting with Pilgrim’s dad, Glenn; mom Louise; brother Gene and wife Marla; Gary and wife Kim; and his son Jason and wife Clarissa.  

It was on the Pioneer Days grounds years ago where Gary Pilgrim met Ebnet, of Long Prairie, who also knew Richard Reller, another engine enthusiast. 

They found they shared a passion for engines. 

“They’re unique. They’re different,” said Ebnet, whose wife Ardis, also helps during the Albany show.   

Ebnet started attending shows thanks to another friend who went to the Rose City Threshing & Heritage Festival, and Ken sat with him, showcasing a couple of engines, and it progressed from there. They both started going to the Pioneer Days show. Reller was also at the Albany show.  

“When Richard passed away 11 years ago I was helping his wife with the auction and said if you want to save some of his stuff, if we ever get a building, we’d have a memorial wall,” Ken said. 

They are in the second year of utilizing the G&K building, constructed during the COVID-19 year, using reclaimed wood. The north doors, which have a steel wheel on the outside for a door handle, are from the former Albany Roller Mills. Two areas of the building are dedicated to Glenn Pilgrim and Richard Reller, both who have passed away. Gene Pilgrim passed away unexpectedly this July, so this year’s Pioneer Days is bittersweet. Pilgrim figures his brother is probably troubleshooting in heaven since he was so good at it on earth. 

This year they built a building inside their building, and they are planning to have water running off of the roof like it is raining inside, again engine-fed.

“We try to put fun stuff here. There is an empty chair in the Ferris wheel so little girls and boys can bring their dolls and stuffed animals for a ride,” Pilgrim said. “The first girl that gave her doll a ride in it is in her 20s now.” 

Pilgrim and Ebnet volunteer around the grounds throughout the year and especially two weeks before the event. But Pilgrim is quick to add there are many people, including friends and family, who pitch in, “more than we do.”  

They two brought their campers in Sept. 5.

“This is our home until after the show,” said Pilgrim, chairperson of the camping inside the grounds for workers and exhibitors.

Pilgrim knows his dad would be proud they are continuing a tradition.

“Dad loved spending time with us boys and Jason, one of his grandchildren,” he said. 

And his mom was Pioneer Days queen one year. 

“She was pretty proud of that,” Gary said. “It kind of caught her off guard and took a while to sink in.” 

Pilgrim and Ebnet enjoy what Pilgrim calls the “rat race” of Pioneer Days. 

“There is always something new, and not just little things. This year they moved in four buildings,” Pilgrim said. 

Albany implement dealerships are being resurrected with buildings showcasing Schiffler Farm Equipment and Peternell Implement, which will be open on the grounds during this year’s show, and a third implement business, Lux Farm Supply, possibly in the future. Also new on the grounds this year is a two-story, elevator style granary and a hog barn, both from the Groetsch farm, north of Albany, which will be completed in 2023, along with a Central Minnesota Blacksmith Association post and beam blacksmith shop. 

On Sept. 7, Pilgrim and Ebnet, while drinking their 6 a.m. coffee, made a list of nine jobs to do that day. 

“Some things are little, maybe fixing a recoil on an air compressor, putting in rock fill somewhere or filling a paper dispenser,” he said. 

Whether the jobs all get completed or not, they are happy campers. 

Albany Pioneer Days is right around the corner – and carousel music will once again be playing in the G&K building as the Ferris wheel and swing go around and around for children and adults to enjoy.