Father-son team the first to both be Thresher presidents
BY DENNY SCOTT
The 10 years between the first father/son Huron Pioneer Thresher and Hobby Association presidential duo of Henry (2006) and Peter Hendriks (2016) marked a lot of changes for the organization.
When Henry took over the organization last in 2006, it was a time of turmoil for the association, not because of any kind of strife but because changes in the lives of some of the executive members had led Henry to jump several positions to become president.
One member of the executive leaving to pursue a career and another leaving for medical reasons left Henry as president and, as he explains it, some of the changes he made were a result of realizing that being president and being involved in committees was a difficult thing to ask of anyone.
“One of the things that I implemented was that the president would give some of the responsibilities with committees away,” he said. “We found that being president made one person too busy to be handling the issues that arise there day-to-day.”
Peter said it was a good change, given his first year of experience as president.
“There are a lot of things to handle and being able to hand off some of the responsibilities with committees is a good idea.”
Henry said that many of his changes revolved around people being able to handle and solve problems more effectively, saying that some of the changes didn’t even have to be implemented to be effective.
“One thing I implemented was a 7 a.m. meeting each day of the reunion,” he said. “We meet, people can deal with the executive directly and decisions get made.”
Henry said there is very little that can do as much damage around the grounds during the reunion as rumours, so having everyone involved in face-to-face meetings once a day helps to quell any problems and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
Another change he implemented that has never actually been used, but has been effective nonetheless, is the incident report book. “It really ended a lot of bickering,” he said.
The book, which is a typical triplicate form book, requires anyone making a complaint about someone else on the grounds to fill out the form and sign their name. A copy of the complaint goes to the executive and to the person being complained about and the plaintiff keeps their own copy.
“The idea is, if you’ve got a problem, you sign your name to it,” Henry said, adding that, after 10 years, no one had ever filled one out.
In talking about the changes, Henry realized that most of them were dealing with people and the problems that arise there. While Peter’s challenges have to do with people, they are a far cry from the situations Henry found himself in.
For one, Peter doesn’t have people complaining about each other as much, partly because of the work of Henry and the other presidents but also partly because people are becoming hard to find. One of his biggest challenges is trying to find young people and get them involved with the organization.
“Bringing in youth is an issue,” he said. “We have to start them young to see if they’re interested and, if they are here and have something to do, they will naturally realize that they want to be a part of it and eventually work their way up to leading the organization.”
To that end, Peter has enlisted the help of a group of which he was a member, the Perth County Junior Farmers and their Huron County counterparts.
“They fit what we’re looking for, which is people interested in history and interested in the way things come to the table,” he said. “They don’t mind working and keep things interesting so it’s fun.”
Both the Huron and Perth Junior Farmers, which have since amalgamated, were brought into the 2016 event, covering various spaces on the grounds including the petting zoo.
While both have faced unique problems, the biggest opportunity or change they have seen is the way that technology has helped the Threshers.
“We’ve had to drag some people kicking and screaming into the future,” Henry said. “I remember we used to have 800, 900 or 1,000 campers coming in and we did them all on paper. Now we have a computer for campers and we have membership, registration and pre-registration online.”
Henry said that in years past the association had trouble getting a phone line installed at the grounds to allow people to stay in contact, but now everyone carries a cell phone in their pocket.
“Everything has been streamlined from the organization’s point of view by technology,” Henry said.
Peter agreed, saying that, with his phone, he can vote on issues, plan meetings and, on all but the biggest issues, have resolutions prepared almost immediately.
“The day-to-day has definitely been made easier by technology,” Henry said.
Some of the other changes both have noticed over the years aren’t necessarily as positive. With increasing costs of maintenance and insurance, fewer steam engines are showing up. The same can be said for bigger tractors.
“Even [in 2016], we... had to look at rules for golf carts and side-by-sides,” Peter said. “Everything is down to liability.”
That increase in liability concern has been a steadily growing issue Henry said, but he did point to one year when a steam engine exploded in Ohio and several people were injured. He believes that incident increased the insurance necessary for events and increased costs.
Larger trailers are also something that the group has been working with. What used to be smaller trailers with a few appliances have been replaced by 50’ trailers that require higher capacity electrical hook-ups.
“People are showing up with longer, bigger, air-conditioned trailers, or heated trailers if it’s cold, and they want to be able to use everything they have in them,” Henry said. “We’ve had to try and work that in since the older electrical won’t always handle it and the spaces were originally designed for smaller trailers.”
Regardless of the changes, both past presidents see the event as a time for people to get together and rekindle old friendships. Among the music, the farm machinery and the exhibits, there is something to draw people of all ages out and proof of that is found with Peter, who still keeps in touch with friends from south of Huron County while at the event.