Northern Illinois Steam Power Club cooking team

Last year, the Northern Illinois Steam Power Club’s food preparation team had fun with the theme of Christmas in July at the annual Sycamore Steam Show & Threshing Bee. From left are Lorraine Hubbard, Pat Lenox, Bev Thompson and Donna Koehnke.

SYCAMORE, Ill. — Most years Lorraine Hubbard is cooking up big batches of comfort food for the Northern Illinois Steam Power Club volunteers. Their work days are in preparation for welcoming thousands of guests to the annual steam engine show in Sycamore in August.

But this year Hubbard’s cooking duties were curtailed as the 2020 pandemic put the brakes on the Sycamore Steam Show & Threshing Bee like so many other events.

Even without the annual show this year, a batch of the steam club volunteers showed up to keep the grounds of the threshing bee in DeKalb County looking good, and Hubbard and her team served up boxed lunches wearing masks and gloves.

The food and the attire was different than usual. Last year they wore Christmas aprons and made a Christmas in July-themed meal. They like to have fun themes, she said.

The smell of the food is part of the experience for the workers.

“They start sniffing about 11:30 a.m.,” said Hubbard, who lives in Chana, an unincorporated community in Ogle County.

Food vendors supply the food choices for the actual show, but Hubbard cooks for seven work days and four general meetings of the club members.

“Lorraine’s homemade comfort food is what people enjoy,” said Bev Thompson, another of the cooks.

In addition to steam engines, the DeKalb County event includes a flea market, threshing demonstrations, mule-pulled wagon rides, a display of about 275 gas powered engines, silo filling, music, festival foods and a parade.

In addition to missing the hometown steam engine event, Lorraine said she misses traveling with her husband to other steam engine shows across the country. He has restored and created half scale and quarter scale models of engines.

The Sycamore Steam Show & Threshing Bee, which celebrated its 50th year with 50 steam engines and an airplane, was established in 1957 and will hold its 64th event next year, said Dan Kocher, who is often on the work bees enjoying Hubbard’s food.

On their website, threshing, the countdown to the show is already running and was at 344 days, 14 hours, 52 minutes and 32 seconds at press time.

In the meantime, Hubbard will be getting ready to make the meals for the work and planning days coming up. She shared a few recipes that are favorites of family and friends.

Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.