Tompkins Center Freedom Festival and Steam Show

by | Sep 29, 2019 | History

The 15th Annual Tompkins Center Historical Society Freedom Festival and Steam Show held on September 20-21, 2019 in Rives Junction, Michigan was a taste of farming Americana. 


Freedom Festival and Steam Show

When Chuck suggested we add the Tompkins Freedom Festival and Steam Show to our calendar, I asked: “What is it?” He pulled on his beard and said thoughtfully, I think it is like Pioneer Day at the Waterloo Farm Museum which celebrates Michigan Farm Life. He was dangling a carrot. 

Dangle a one-room schoolhouse, log cabin or Michigan history in front of me and I’m off like a greyhound chasing a rabbit. Why? These events breathe life into the world my parents and grandparents experienced. It is the context for the dates, documents, and pictures I’ve collected in

Taste of Farming Americana

Having recently attended the Freedom Festival and Steam Show, I would describe it as a taste of farming Americana. 


Yes I know Americana is also a genre of American music but “Americana also celebrates unique American culture.”  The Tompkins Center Historical Society works hard to preserve the artifacts connected with the Tompkins community. Their museums are bursting with Michigan History. Much of it centered around farming.


Their website describes the Freedom Festival and Steam Show “as the largest event of the year in celebration of our community! Many events will be taking place such as car show, steam engine show, kid’s tractor pulls, open museum, live bands, flea market, bake sale, silent auction and a lot of excellent food!” It was free to the public with donation jars available if you were inclined. 

Stewart Farm


The festival sprawls over several acres of the Stewart Farm with distinct areas for the car show, steam engines and tractor pulls. Tucked around the one-room schoolhouse and log cabin were the flea market and silent auction.


Car Show 

When we arrived around noon, the festival was in full gear. Since we parked near the car show we started there.




The steam whistles off in the distance were a siren call.

Steam Show

It didn’t take long and we were in the heart of the steam show. Soon we were talking to exhibitors and looking at the tractors. 





The steam engines stole Chuck’s heart. He kept saying, “These are so cool.” I kept thinking I’m so glad he can’t figure out how to get one into our garage. 




Sawmill Demonstration

The sawmill demonstration got me thinking about the tv show from the ’70s, “The Waltons.” I loved that show and the simplicity of life in the 1930s and ’40s and I was loving the Freedom Festival. 


One-Room Schoolhouse

My grandmother taught school in a one-room schoolhouse in 1912. I followed the breadcrumbs she left to find the school where she taught. I imagine this museum is very similar to the school where she taught. 


Log Cabin

Can you imagine living in a log cabin in 1836 in Michigan? As I type away on my keyboard, I’ve got to say, I can’t. 



Native American and Military Encampment

The original #vanlife experience kept running through my head! And the fact that my great-great-great-grandparents, William and Rachel Brown, were trendsetters when they drove overland in a covered-wagon in 1828 from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to Tazewell County, Indiana! 




Farm House Museum

The Farm House Museum was one of our last stops and is open by appointment, during monthly tractor pulls, or special events. Check their website for details.   



Michigan History 

If you enjoy Michigan History, here are just a few suggestions to keep you busy until next year’s Tompkins Center Historical Freedom Festival and Steam Show!

Grass Lake, Michigan

During our own Genealogy Roadshow, Chuck and I found a collection of museums dedicated to Grass Lake history: the Michigan Military Heritage Museum and Coe House.

Coe House - Grass Lake - 2016-7

We’ve attended several of their events including the Michigan World War I Centennial event and I’ve got say they do an excellent job! 

The Waterloo Area Historical Society celebrates “Michigan Farm Life” on Pioneer Day at the Waterloo Farm Museum. Think of an intimate Henry Ford Museum, but way better. 

Pioneer Day at the Waterloo Farm Museum - 2017-109

Muskegon, Michigan

The Hackley and Hume Historic Homes in Muskegon captures a moment in time when timber was king. If you love beautiful historic homes, make time to visit them. 

Hackley-Hume Historic Homes-1

Mackinaw City, Michigan

Colonial Michilimackinac is the last exit before Mackinaw Bridge and is packed with history and photo opportunities. 

Fort Michilimackinac-59

Detroit, Michigan

Do you love Detroit’s history? Then check out the Detroit History Tours. We highly recommend the Haunted Detroit Tour. 

Haunted Detroit Tour-60

We are constantly adding to our collection of Michigan History suggestions. You can find them all on our website under the History menu. If you have a suggestion, please share in the comments below.

Photo Galleries 

Visit our photo gallery where we have more pictures. Enjoy the images. Contact us regarding any use. 

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  1. Awesome!…thank you! Glad you had fun!

  2. Welcome to our community! Hope to see you next year!

    • Thanks! It is a lovely event. I can’t imagine the hard work needed to create it! Well done!

  3. Just loved these pictures of our festival at Tompkins. Is there a way to get copies of them.?

    • Hi Nancy, you should be able to download them from our gallery. When you click on an image, a row of icons at the top appear. Click on the one that second from the right, with the arrow pointing into a tray. That will download the image. If you are looking for high resolution images for printing, please send us an email at


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