The gentle rumble of a John Deere engine, the glisten of polished metal in the morning sun and the earthy smell of diesel. This was the scene of the National Antique Tractor Pullers Association Championship at the Boone County Fairgrounds on Saturday.
With about 250 active members, the event began on Friday and drew competitors as young as 11, as old as 80 and from as far away as New York. The “uniform” was some variation of blue jeans, flannel shirt and ball cap — preferably bearing the insignia of a tractor company.
“You drive through a lot of crappy weather to play with your toys,” said Vicki Crum, who worked as a volunteer.
At a tractor pull, participants drag a weight up to 9,500 pounds attached to their tractors as far as possible. There are five divisions, with different weight classes and top speeds.
Competition is serious, and tractors must meet certain specifications. Each tractor is weighed to ensure it doesn’t exceed maximum weight standards.
“I keep everybody honest,” said Ann Wenzig, from Creston, Iowa, one of the techs who checked that competition tractors met certain requirements.
Wenzig, who donned John Deere tractor earrings, and her husband, Richard, have been tractor-pulling competitors for the past 25 years, traveling to rallies around the country.
“You meet a lot of real nice people,” she said.
Wenzig is known for her “good luck charm” — an 18-year-old brown leather handbag that hangs from her tractor during every race. The name of her tractor is emblazoned on the body of the tractor: Ann’s Big Crank. Wenzig has become accomplished in the 7,500- and 8,500-pound Division III pulls. Her fiercest competition comes from her own husband.
“We pull against each other. He beat me down here last time, and I’ve been beating him everywhere else,” Wenzig said, laughing.
With a change of tires, his losing streak ended recently on a 1953 John Deere 70.
“Now he’s happy,” Wenzig said.