Tractor pull fundraiser expected to draw thousands

Aug. 01, 2013 @ 06:42 PM

The seventh annual Henderson-Vance County Firemen’s National Truck & Tractor Pull gets started tonight at the county fairgrounds on Andrews Avenue.

The Vance County 300, held in late August recently, has moved up in hopes of avoiding seasonal rain and the Friday night lights of high school football.

Gates open Friday afternoon at 4 and competitions begin at 7:30. On Saturday, the gates open at noon and competitions resume at 7.

The contests center on pulling a sled through 300 feet of mud, and it is part of a sport circuit in which qualified contestants win points that run through a season of events in the U.S. and Canada.

Last year’s Friday attendance fell off because all four area high schools were putting on home games. The Saturday events got cancelled because of torrential downpours. And event organizers, struggling to break even, have made some changes.

“The number one reason for having it earlier this year was the weather, to beat the worst of the hurricane season, and second was to get out earlier than the high school football season,” event organizer Chad Blake said.

Blake is the chief at the Hicksboro Volunteer Fire Department.

He added that arrangements were decided and announced in November, and responses have been positive. Typically, Vance County’s event draws thousands over the two-night show.

All proceeds raise funds for the county volunteer fire departments and rescue squad.

“We should have about 40 pullers from North Carolina, surrounding states and as far away as Ohio and Indiana,” Blake said. “This is our one fundraiser, and last year we just about broke even on cost because we were not able to have it both nights.”

The cost for conducting the regulation tractor-pull sled events on the prepared 300-foot track runs about $40,000. Like other vehicle sports such as NASCAR, the regulation conditions are necessary in order to qualify points for competitors taking part in the National Tractor Pull Association season loaded with invitational competitions.

The Vance County stop is taking place two weeks before the national championships in Bowling Green, Ohio.

So far, the weather reports appear clear: mostly sunny or partly cloudy without noted percentages for rain, temperatures topping around 88 degrees, with lows at about 67, according to National Weather Service forecasts.

“Right now, the weather is looking good for the whole weekend,” Blake said.

The regulation track includes a wide preparation area at one end, 300 feet of muddy runway set to a standard width of 35-feet, then another 300-feet of runoff area at the opposite end.

The object of each competitor in turns is to run a full, straight pull without a disqualifying cross of the width markers, or “out-of-bounds line,” while a laser-light measuring device notes the distance achieved for each competitor.

If a competitor throws a shutdown in the first 75-foot “staging” area, they can recover to the start line and take a second try. There are two opportunities for a measurable pull.

The sled includes a weight-transfer mechanism so that by the 300-foot mark, the weight becomes an impossible burden, and the pull ends. Making a full-pull on the first run guarantees placement in the “pull-off.”

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.