Organizers cancel this year's Buckley Old Engine Show; say it would have been 'virtually impossible'

People board the steam engine train at the Buckley Old Engine Show on Aug. 15, 2019.

BUCKLEY — Facing stringent social distancing guidelines pertaining to public gatherings, organizers of the Buckley Old Engine Show have made the call to cancel this year's event — marking the first time the hugely popular show has ever been shut down in its nearly half century of existence.

"With much regret, the Buckley Old Engine Show executive board has made the difficult decision to cancel all remaining 2020 public events including our show in August and Education Days in September," reads a press release issued on the Buckley Old Engine Show Facebook page. "After discussions with health officials and insurance and legal advisors, it has become apparent that 2020 public events cannot be safely carried out. The health and safety of our members, guests, and vendors are of the utmost concern in these trying times ... Thank you for your understanding. Please know this was a difficult decision for all of us."

Board President Todd Benson said with the volume of people who attend the show each year, it would have been "virtually impossible" to adhere to the social distancing guidelines likely to be required of public events, such as making sure attendees stand 6 feet apart and wear masks at all times.

"I don't see any possible way we could have done that, with the quantity of people we assemble," Benson said.

Entering its 53rd year, Benson said the decision to cancel this year's event has been weighing heavily on the hearts and minds of the board and club members.

Factoring into their decision to cancel is the fact that a large portion of their membership — which is comprised of more than 600 families — is made up of people age 65 and over, some who already have said they wouldn't be able to attend this year out of concern about coronavirus exposure.

"This has been a very difficult time for all of us," Benson said. "But this was a decision we made out of concern for everyone's health."

"We have a lot of responsibility in putting this on," said longtime club member and show organizer John Crofoot. "A lot of people are disappointed, though. We really look forward to putting on the show every year."

Benson said while the event won't be held this year, they still intend to distribute their show booklet, which is already paid for by advertisers and features information on attractions that would have been featured in 2020. He said all they're waiting for are stickers to place on the books indicating this year's event has been canceled. The books are distributed by members and through local gas stations, businesses and visitor bureaus.

For 2021, Benson said they plan to roll in some of the events that were supposed to take place in 2020, including a display of the A.D. Graham collection, which is comprised of several scale model engines. 

The Buckley Old Engine Show is held over the course of several days in August at 6090 W. 2 1/2 Road; drawing thousands of attendees each day, the festival is one of the largest events of any kind held in the Cadillac area.

Last year's show included more than 1,000 antique gas, steam and diesel tractors and 600-plus antique gas and oil engines. It also featured a recreation of a 1900s "Front Street" with a blacksmith and barber, a switch house for the railroad, an old-time necessity building and people running looms.