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Tornado trashes threshers: Damage may hit $100,000


Hoping for help

ROLLAG, Minn. - Organizers of the annual Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion near here are picking up and repairing machinery and buildings after a tornado tore through the grounds earlier this week.

Members said Thursday repairs may cost up to $100,000.

The twister whipped through 45 miles of west-central Minnesota late Monday night, said John Hoppes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, N.D.

The winds ripped open the roof of the Threshermen's Memorial Building, destroyed 20 bundle wagons and left a threshing machine shed in shambles, damaging machines inside, said Threshers President Jim Briden.

Heavy winds three weeks ago damaged the west side of the storage shed, he said.


"We've kind of had a bad streak of luck here for the past month," Briden said. "Last time it never hurt a thing inside, but this time it picked up the building and set it south about 15 feet."

Organizers removed eight of the 16 machines after the first storm hit.

The east roof collapsed onto the remaining eight machines Monday night, severely damaging "The Minnesota," a 1912 wood-framed thresher.

Richard Rorvig said the machine's feeder was in bad shape, but could be restored with time and patience.

"That's what we're in the business of here," said the 69-year-old farmer from Rothsay, 45 miles southeast of Fargo-Moorhead.

One of the largest steam thresher engines in the country normally rests on the grounds, but Rorvig moved it home two weeks ago to show it off during his 50th wedding anniversary celebration.

Rorvig said he was grateful he moved the 1907 machine off the grounds because losing it would feel like losing a family member.

"I spent three years restoring the thing, so I claim it has the same DNA as I have," he said.


The organization puts on an annual Labor Day weekend show featuring equipment from the turn of the century to the 1940s. This year's show runs Sept. 3-6.

Briden said repairs could be completed in time for the annual show with help from the group's 4,300 members.

"We need all our members to come out and fix our trouble that Mother Nature created for us," he said.

The organization will work hard during coming weekends to meet the deadline, said Briden's wife, Lynette.

"We're kind of putting all of our plans on hold so we can get caught up," she said.

Rorvig said the group will meet this weekend to assess damage and use the following two weekends to make repairs.

The bundle wagons, which haul grain, must be fixed first for harvest time.

The 10-foot-wide wagons had been taken out of storage last week and lined up behind the shed. Monday's storm left the wooden siding in shambles and bent some metal frames.


"I don't think there's half a dozen of them that are repairable," Rorvig said.

Repairs will take additional time and effort because many machines no longer have available spare parts.

"We'll have to make everything," Briden said. "There are no parts for them; you make everything for them - make or fix what's there."

Briden said the insurance would cover costs to repair the two larger buildings. Members will donate the labor, but ticket sales from the reunion will cover supplies to fix the wagons.

The four-day show, which began in 1953, covers 240 acres of land. Last year 60,000 people attended.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Brittany Lawonn at (701) 241-5529

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