GREENVILLE — The roar of straining horses could be heard throughout the Montcalm County 4-H Fairgrounds on Tuesday evening; the kind of horses one finds beneath the hood of a hulking John Deere tractor.
At the fairground’s grandstand arena, dozens of antique tractors went fender-to-fender to compete in this year’s tractor pull, sponsored by the Flat River Antique Tractor Club. Owners of Farmall’s, Deere’s and International Harvester’s pushed their rigs to the limit in an attempt to drag a weighted sled just a little farther than the next guy.
According to event organizer Helen Noon, the popular event typically draws between 50 to 60 competitors each year.
“This is the second year for us at the new fairgrounds,” Noon said. “It’s open to anybody and they come from all over; from Dorr, Big Rapids, Allendale.”
The event is divided into several classifications based on tractor size, horsepower and speed, among other factors.
The tractor pull also is popular with fans, about 50 of whom paid $5 each for the privilege of watching the show.
“This is my favorite thing in the fair,” said Lyle Handlin of Alma. “I come pretty much every year just for this, but I missed last year.”
The ingeniously designed weighted sled — which gets progressively heavier as it moves down the field — was conceived and created by club member John Raymond over 30 years ago.
At that time, Raymond checked out the sleds at other tractor pulls, then developed a unique transmission that would increase the sled’s weight incrementally as it is pulled.
“We’ve been using the same sled all this time,” Raymond said. “It’s very dependable. They paint it every once in a while, but it’s the same sled.”
Many of the tractors that entered the event showed that same sort of longevity. While some were semi-rusted and belching smoke, many have been lovingly restored to like new condition.
For those who enjoy traditional entertainment, country style, the Flat River Antique Tractor Club’s annual event is hard to beat.