FATEA invites you to take a stroll through history

By Ashley Price, Reprinted with permission from Everything Men magazine


The 'Big Barn' was relocated to its current home from a farm over a mile away.

Nestled in the outskirts of Adrian lies 115 acres of farm and wooded land managed by the Farmers Antique Tractor and Engine Association (FATEA). FATEA, as described by its president, Jim Opersal, is a group of like-minded individuals focused on the preservation and education of agricultural history and relevant practices. They aim to show the value of a slower way of life and foster a relationship to the land and promote an understanding of where our food actually comes from.

The group boasts over 200 diverse members and has a long tradition of agricultural history and preservation. This year marks a very important milestone as the 20th anniversary of the moving of the Ikle Drewyor barn onto the property. The “Big Barn” as they call it, is the center-stone of their complex. It serves as the main museum for farm and agriculture artifacts and during the annual spring and fall festivals it houses exhibits like the Lost Arts exhibit, where they have booths that teach quilting, tin punching, rug hooking, and basket weaving among other festivities.

The Big Barn was built by hand in 1922 on the Ikle Drewyor farm located over a mile away from its current location. After the farmer had passed, the daughters approached the FATEA and asked if they knew anyone who would be interested in the barn as they weren’t able to maintain and care for it and they also couldn’t bear the thought of it falling down and becoming a distant memory. It held so many special childhood memories of barn dances and life lessons learned.

The group decided they wanted to carry on the history of the old structure. It was paramount to their mission to preserve and restore the piece of local Americana history. So they started an intense fundraising campaign to help pay for the move and restoration process and in the winter of 1996 they slowly rolled the entire massive, old T-shaped barn across the frozen fields of Rome Township. After six hours of careful navigation the barn finally made it to it’s new home on the FATEA grounds, where it sits today. Teaching the community of craftsmanship, agricultural history and the importance of giving old artifacts a new chance to tell a story.

The group has a lot to be proud of -- not only was the Ikle-Drewyor barn awarded Barn of the Year in 1998 from the Michigan Barn Preservation Network, but every building on the grounds has historical significance and was refurbished and used to show the simple but harsh life of the American farmer from past to present. For instance, two of the buildings were used in World War II; one as a housing structure in Adrian and the other as a aircraft maintenance facility at Willow Run Airport in Detroit during the war.

The complex is a living museum with a hands-on philosophy. Unlike the Henry Ford Museum, touching of artifacts and gaining a first person experience is encouraged here. Take stroll through the old general store and buy some penny candy. Or maybe swing by the old printing press and gain a new appreciation for a time before the Internet. Finally, a visit to the old saw mill is a must. The sawmill is still operational and fully functional. Learn how our ancestors used to get their lumber before the invention of building and construction superstores. The group actually offers to cut lumber for the public in return for a kind donation to the association, which is solely how they fund their organization.

The group hosts and attends many events for the community through the year, but their main events are the spring and fall festivals. The festivals have tractor and engine shows, a free museum of yesteryear, flea market, a “trash to treasure” rummage sale and trading post - perfect for the tractor and engine enthusiasts to pick up parts for restoration projects, and a live concert featuring Larry Rothman and the Pickin’ Roots.

There is also a plethora of kids events during the festivals, such as the kiddie tractor pulls, small farm animal exhibit, wagon rides, school field trips, among many other family friendly educational events.

Take a trip back in time with your family and explore the annual spring festival held this year on May 20-22. All proceeds for the event will go to restoring and maintaining the Ikle-Drewyor barn for hopefully another 20 years of promoting history and the appreciation of a time of days gone by.

For more information, check out the group’s website at