The first class of 8,000-pound tractors at the Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair’s farm stock tractor pull didn’t even get to finish pulling Friday evening before a flash rainstorm put the whole operation on hiatus.
But volunteers and competitors weren’t too concerned. By the time 7 p.m. rolled around, when the interstate semi-truck and tractor pull was slated to start, volunteers were repainting the track and removing the wet dirt to reveal a drier layer underneath.
“The track is sealed up,” said 4-H volunteer Jake Schaeffer, looking out from the stage during the storm. “We pack it down so we could take a couple inches off the top and it will be fine.”
He said, despite the rain, the tractor pull got further than last year — when the event was washed out by rainstorms that kept volunteers from even trying to set it up.
During the tractor pull, drivers compete by pulling a weighted sled as far as they can in a 350-foot arena of hard-packed clay. As it is pulled, the weight moves from the back of the sled to the front, forcing the tractors to work harder to pull. The event Friday featured 11 classes of tractors and semi-trucks.
Two of the last pullers from the first class, husband and wife Erik and Shelby Althoff, stood on the stage to get out of the rain around 6:30 p.m. It wasn’t until an hour later that they got to have their go at the sled.
Erik Althoff got his Oliver 1800 past the 250-foot mark on the track Friday night, reaching 286.68 feet. He said he has been participating in the tractor pull for about eight years and his wife just began a couple years ago. She only fell behind him by 1.51 feet in the race that night, with both of them earning mid-range scores for the evening.
The couple, from Westminster, grow hay on about 10 acres of land and bring their tractors right off the farm to compete.
“Mine’s got grass all over it still,” Erik Althoff said.
He also said they would be at the antique tractor show and pull Saturday, scheduled from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a few Oliver tractors. They use them on the farm and collect them as a hobby.
The tractor pull is part of a long-standing tradition in Carroll County, and Nevin Tasto — the event’s commentator and a volunteer since 1969 — said Friday he remembered the first year Carroll County hosted the event, when it was done with a wooden sled on black top.
It’s come a long way since then.
“The sled’s got a transmission in it like a vehicle [now],” said Jason Watt, another volunteer and former 4-H’er pointing at the Rebel Sled while a tractor popped up into a wheelie. “That machine there is made to try to stop you.”
Schaeffer and fellow volunteer Sam Folley said after working the fair for years, and participating in 4-H when they were younger, they were looking forward to seeing the semi-trucks and larger tractors come out later in the evening.
The crowd was light earlier on due to rain; it usually gets bigger as the night grows longer and the tractors get larger in size, they said.
“Most people get out of work at 5 [p.m.],” Folley said. “We start the more exciting show later.”
“The modified tractors are loud, they’re fast, they make a lot of noise,” Schaeffer said. “It’s a big show.”
And the vintage grain truck races and drag racing have been bringing in a large crowd too in recent years, he said. Those races are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Saturday, after the antique tractor show and pull.
“We’re expecting a pretty big crowd tomorrow night,” he said.
The grain truck races are a fairly new tradition as the event is only going into its eighth year, but this is the first year it will be a Saturday event.