Tractors are scheduled to drive through the Douglas County Fairgrounds rodeo arena Thursday night, but the large farm machines won’t be harvesting any crops. They will be participating in the Douglas County Fair’s antique tractor pull competition.
In the contest, tractors compete to see which can pull a weighted sled the farthest. Tractors are separated into classes depending on their year and how many modifications have been made to the tractor and engine. The Douglas County Fair will have stock, modified, farm and open classes.
Leroy Turner, who organizes the antique tractor pull, hopes that area farmers will want to compete in the farm class. He is expecting at least 25 competitors to be at the pull and for roughly 75 to 100 tractors to hook to the sled.
Many of the participants have been active in the pull for years.
One of them is McLouth resident Bill Petrie. He’s competed in the Douglas County Fair for the past 15 years and has been participating in tractor pulls for more than 43 years. He started when he was 5 years old.
Petrie will bring two tractors to the competition. To prepare them, he checks the engines and tires and makes sure the machines are in top-performing condition. Other preparations like changing the settings and the positioning of weight on the tractors take place after examining the track to find out if it is a hard, dry track or has more give.
“On a tractor, a lot of the preparation is done ahead of time but the actual setting up doesn’t happen until you see the track condition,” Petrie said.
The fair’s track will be about 280 feet long, but Turner is unsure how wet he will make it for the tractors.
“If I can find enough water I will make it a fairly decent track,” Turner said.
Petrie has fared well in previous competitions at the fair, and, although he wants a win, he is most looking forward to seeing friends. He says the best part of the event is the camaraderie among competitors and the many friendships that form. He also likes to meet other drivers, especially newcomers to the sport.
“It’s fun when you see a young competitor start,” Petrie said. “It’s fun to help them figure things out, give them pointers and help them become more competitive.”
Petrie plans to make a full pull at the fair and even though his camaraderie with the other drivers is important to him, he said he still is hoping for a win.
The antique tractor pull begins at 6 p.m. Thursday in the rodeo arena. The event is free and open to the public.