By LISA BICKNELL
CV&T News Editor
The Hillbilly Flywheelers are a loose-knit organization with close ties.
Phillip Sparks, a resident of West Irvine, is one of the core group members that keep it together, but he says they charge nothing for admission, nothing to set up at shows, and they don’t keep any money in the bank.
“We are completely non-profit,” he said.
Inventors of all sorts of engines and machinery gathered at the Estill County Fairgrounds during the Mountain Mushroom Festival this weekend for the 15th Annual Antique Gas Engine and Tractor Show.
On Friday, Sparks hand-cranked the “contraption” he put together from an old horse-drawn orchard sprayer, a rear-end, a seat, and a steering wheel, and it roared to life. He calls it a tractor, and although he started building it ten years ago, he just finished it last winter.
Sparks’ interest in gas engines likely stemmed from his father’s occupation in the oil fields. Sparks grew up in the Granny Richardson’s spring area of Barnes Mountain where small scale drilling was common.
Sparks retired from Rockwell International, then he did contract work for the Freeman Corporation for seven years, before fully giving up public work.
However, he still pursues his long term hobby. He says he’s been traveling around to engine shows all over the United States for the past 50 years or so.
The one in Irvine during the festival is a favorite of many. Some of the Flywheeler club start showing up at the beginning of the week before the show begins on Friday. They say they look forward to it all year long.
There are folks here from Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, Florida, as well as all over Kentucky. Sparks expressed his appreciation for the Estill County fair board president Teddy Hunt, who “comes through twice a day to see if anyone needs anything.”
“This is the finest group of people you will find anywhere,” Sparks said. “You can leave your billfold or your tools laying around, and nobody will bother them.”