Longtime HCSEA President Steve Fender retires

Longtime HCSEA President Steve Fender retires
Dave Mast

After 23 years as the HCSEA president, Steve Fender, shown here doing what he loves best in announcing the tractor pull, has stepped down as the president. He said because of the great people the organization has, the show will continue to roll along.


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

For the past 23 years Steve Fender has served as the president of the Holmes County Steam Engine Association. For 27 years the HCSEA has come to Mt. Hope Auction, where steam engines have roared to life.

For 27 years tractor pulls have thrilled audiences, along with machinery demonstrations, tractor barrel racing, a skidsteer rodeo, and a chainsaw demonstration and contest that pitted those willing to put their skills to the test with tractors, saws and more.

Fender has been leading the way for 23 of those years. As the HCSEA begins to search for a new president, the show went on in Mt. Hope Aug. 1-3, and the show continued to provide thrills and joy all the same.

Ervin Hershberger has stepped in to be the acting president for this year’s event, but because the organization has so many people in the loop who take care of different aspects of the weekend activities, the weekend never missed a beat.

“Within any organization it is never easy to find officers, but we have been blessed to have some incredible people taking on leadership roles in this organization over the years,” Fender said. “Every organization needs new blood from time to time, and it was time for me to step down.”

Fender said that because of the many people who took on key roles, he was more of a figurehead, although he poured tons of hours into the show and into the organization. He said with over 27 years of involvement with the HCSEA, his biggest joy has come from the relationships that have blossomed.

“It’s really a big reunion, and there are a lot of people who don’t see each other except during this weekend,” Fender said. “It’s like a family reunion, and the steam engines are what brings us together. There have been a lot of highlights including the Battle of the Titans, which I was involved with starting, really by accident. The atmosphere is what I remember the most.”

Fender said he doesn’t see himself walking away from the show or from the organization any time soon because it has been such a big part of his life. He said he will devote more time to his business, Fender Fish Hatchery, now that he has some time.

While Hershberger was busy running the steam show portion of the weekend, Fender did find his way back to the show to do what he loves the most, which is announcing the tractor pull. Each year the tractor pull doesn’t have a purse, but it still draws drivers to compete for the sheer fun of the game.

New to this year’s show was the lumberjack show. The saw mill was operating as usual, giving visitors a glimpse of how these steam engines used to be the top bill in agriculture. Perhaps the one show that has grown in popularity more than any other over recent years has been the advent of the Thursday horse pull.

With an $8,000 purse, the horse-pulling event draws teams from beyond Ohio’s borders to compete. That has helped make the horse pull a signature event for the HCSEA weekend.

"This used to be a tractor pull with a horse show on the side, but now it’s the other way around,” Fender said. “That horse pull has really grown in popularity. The tractor pull continues to be a big event for us even though there is no purse. It is recognition only, which is just fine with people around here.”

This year’s event was in memory of Milton V. Shetler, a local Mt. Hope man who was always instrumental in volunteering and helping the show in any way he could over the years. Shetler passed away in May 2018.

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