The Arizona Flywheelers is an organization of over 170 enthusiastic collectors and restorers of antique engines, tractors and related machinery from all over the southwest. Once a year they converge at the Verde Valley Fairgrounds in Cottonwood to show off their "toys", put on tractor parades, compete in tractor pulls, and hold silent auctions, raffles and book sales accompanied by on-going old-time entertainment.
The 24th annual Arizona Flywheelers Engine Show comes to Cottonwood this weekend, March 15-16, in combination with the Southwest Regional Show of the Vintage Garden Tractor Club of America. It is a celebration of our nation's mechanical ingenuity with plenty to see and do for everyone. This year's show is dedicated to Graydon Gaudy, the man largely responsible for bringing the event to Cottonwood.
Graydon, who passed away late last year at the age of 92, was a tugboat captain in Seattle, Washington, before moving to Cottonwood in 1970 with his wife, Betty. While exploring Arizona, he would scout out engines and then, with a group of friends, including Don Robertson of Jerome's Gold King Mine, organize loading parties to go and pick them up. According to Betty, the fun was in restoring the old engines, devising parts for them with the help of some machinist friends. He had a preference for the larger engines, many from old mines, and he had ample space in which to display them.
His collection grew, and in the early 1980's he invited some friends to show their engines on the grounds of his home over President's Weekend.
The Arizona Flywheelers began in 1984 and their first formal show and potluck dinner was held in 1985 at the Gaudy home.
The event eventually grew too large to be held at a private home in a growing neighborhood, so in the late 1990's the show was moved to the Verde Valley Fairgrounds in Cottonwood, where it is still held. Graydon's engine collection is now on display at Robson's Mining World outside Wickenburg.
Hundreds of engines will be on display - flywheels, hot air, gas engines - some full scale, some scale models, dating from the latter half of the 19th century to mid 20th century. These were the workhorses that ran the machinery in factories, mines and farms before electricity. They helped the farmer irrigate, plow, sow and harvest his fields, and eased some of the daily drudgery for the housewife.
Avid flywheelers and tractor collectors scour the countryside for abandoned engines, then spend months and often years, in restoring them to working order.
The annual show is a grand occasion for flywheel enthusiasts to get together, exchange notes, "horse trade" with kindred souls, and show off their engines to the general public.
The two-day event at the fairgrounds in Cottonwood includes tractor parades both days at 1 p.m., tractor pulls of various classifications, including a kiddie tractor pull, model railroads and airplanes, vintage cars, a flea market, vendors and raffles.
Opening ceremony is at 8:30 am on Saturday and the fun continues to 5 pm. Sunday's events begin with gospel music at 8 a.m. and end with the raffles at 2 p.m.
Admission is $3, children free. There's plenty of free parking and a people mover - pulled by a tractor, naturally - to transport you from the parking lot to the exhibitions.
If you are interested in flywheels and tractors, or would just like to learn more about these wonderful engines, the Arizona Flywheelers invite you to join them at their monthly breakfast meetings on the first Wednesday of the month at Denny's in Cottonwood at 7 a.m.
For more information, visit their website at www.arizonaflywheelers.com.