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Tractors pull in a crowd at Ag Expo & Fair

July 21, 2007|By MARIE GILBERT

When Floyd Parker was a boy growing up in rural West Virginia, the men he knew all earned a living with the strength of their backs.

They raised crops and cattle, split wood, baled hay and could fix any machine they owned.

They would never be comfortable with a desk job, the 70-year-old Hagerstown resident said. They loved their farms and their tractors.

Once a year, the Washington County Ag Expo & Fair turns into paradise for people such as Parker.

And one of the big draws is the tractor pull.

On Saturday night, the most dedicated spectators arrived early to reserve a prime patch of grass overlooking the track at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center.

First up was the youth tractor pull, which featured 4-H and FFA-aged participants, followed by the Don Schwartz Memorial Tractor Pull for adults.

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Both competitions featured farm-stock tractors.

"These aren't the loud, souped-up variety," said Charles Wiles of the Washington County Farm Bureau and one of the organizers of the event. "People make a living with these tractors. But tonight, it's all about fun."

Saturday's pulls were expected to draw at least 60 participants, Wiles said.

"Most of the people know each other and come out year after year for some friendly competition," Wiles said. "They compete for minimal prizes. But what they really want are bragging rights for a year."

Green John Deeres, red Internationals and blue Fords glistened in the setting orange sun as judges went over the rules with participants.

The idea of a pull is simple, Wiles said. A powerful tractor pulls a sled with a weight of 30,000 pounds down a 300-foot dirt track. The weight moves up the sled as the tractor moves along the track, making it more difficult to pull.

Among the participants was Phil Bowers of Williamsport, who said he has competed in the tractor pull at the Ag Expo the past two years.

"Last year, I did pretty fair, placing in the middle of the pack," Bowers said. "Hopefully, I'll do better tonight."

Bowers said he comes out each year "just for fun."

"The experience is the best thing that comes out of it," he said. "You can't take it too seriously. It's just a friendly competition. Everybody has a good time."

That includes the spectators.

Wiles said the pull was expected to draw about 1,000 people.

"It's a popular event every year," he said. "We always have a good crowd."

Heading for the grandstands, Heather Marks of Hagerstown shouted some words of encouragement to a cousin who was participating in the youth pull.

"I'm part of his cheering section," she said, joining several relatives. "We all came out to wish him good luck."

Marks said she was enjoying other activities on Saturday at the Ag Expo.

"But the main reason I'm here is the pull," she said. "I'm a farm girl, and I love this stuff."

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