Stoking Interest in Americana

“Hit ’n’ miss” engines are a popular aspect of Fall Harvest Days

By: Pat Barcas

For Donnie Tessneer, Fall Harvest Days are a multi-generation tradition.
Photo by Pat Barcas

Keeping Americana alive and stoking interest in the next generation is a key point of Fall Harvest Days. The annual event draws collectors and displayers of antique tractors, farm implements, hit ’n’ miss engines, crafts, parts, tools, collectibles, and more from Canada to Florida and everywhere in between to display, swap, and talk about their collections. 

“Every year, I take the week off. This is my vacation,” says Donnie Tessneer, who has attended the show for the last 23 years. “It’s like I never miss a beat with the people I’ve known for years. I’ll pull up, we’ll tell some stories, swap a few things, and have a great time.”

Photo by Pat Barcas

Tessneer grew up across the street from his grandparents’ 60-acre farm in Lake Lure, and he carries the torch for his father Don, who passed in 2016, and for his grandfather Arthur, who passed in 2020. 

Not much has changed on the farm since Donnie grew up there. The road’s been paved, and now he just mows the grass instead of harvesting crops, but he still drives his great grandfather’s old Chevy pickup to work some days, and he keeps the memories of bygone days alive with a robust collection of Americana housed in his 100-year-old barn. 

This year, he’s bringing his usual 16-foot trailer full of hit ’n’ miss engines and miscellaneous antique collectibles, all reminders of growing up on the farm.

Photo by Pat Barcas

“I started collecting when I was really young, and got into the hobby, and you see a lot of younger kids at the show,” he said. “I think they like that you can walk around and see stuff that grandma may have had at her house.”

Hit ’n’ miss engines were a staple at farms in the early 20th century. They are so named because the engine does not combust on every revolution, just enough to keep it going. They are simple, reliable workhorses that were started in the morning and ran until night time to power cultivators, saws, and many other vintage forms of agricultural equipment. Now, they can be highly collectable and are easy to work on — traits that Tessneer says makes them ideal for those wanting to get into the hobby. 

Photo by Pat Barcas

He notes that he sees less interest from younger generations, but is hoping shows like this one can keep attention going for classic Americana. 

“The older generation is passing away. You don’t see as many of the old timers [at the event] as you once did,” he says. “A lot of the younger generation is getting away from things that are mechanical, things you have to work on. I think that’s got a lot to do with it.”

Apple Country Engine & Tractor Association hosts the WNC Fall Harvest Days 2021 Engine and Tractor Show from Thursday, Oct. 14 through Saturday, Oct. 16, 8am-5pm, rain or shine, at the WNC Agricultural Center (1301 Fanning Bridge Road, Fletcher). Adult admission is $8/day, or $20/three days (children under 12 get in free with a paying adult). For more information, call 828-435-0413 or visit 

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