ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ALEEN RATZLAFF
Girls and boys ages 4 through 12 can participate in the Pedal Tractor Pull, scheduled for Thursday afternoon, Aug. 9, at the Marion County Fair.
Registration begins at 1 p.m. and the pull starts at 2 p.m. at the Rodeo Arena. There is no cost to participate.
First and second finishers in each age division will qualify for the tractor pull-off held at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson in September.
The only way children can compete at the state fair pull is to qualify at sanctioned ones, held at festivals and fairs throughout Kansas.
Bill Van De Creek and his wife, Leigh Ann, of Abilene are bringing the event to the Marion County Fair.
The Van De Creeks, who worked a pull in Lehigh on Memorial Day, started holding pedal-tractor pulls 19 years ago.
“Basically, this is a hobby for us,” he said, adding he plans to bring four or five tractors to the fair.
Van De Creek, along with help from his brother, designed and hand-built the tractors, which are appropriately sized for children in different age classes.
The largest ones can seat an adult, he said.
Two pedal tractors are four-wheel drives, he said. He uses one for the intermediate group and the other for the oldest group.
All of the tractors are made out of aluminum.
“The frames are tough and heavy enough that you could drop a car engine in ’em and never hurt ’em any,” he said. “You’ve got to make them so they’re basically bullet-proof.”
The tractors have to be sturdy because there is no time for maintenance once the tractor-pulling season gets underway during the summer months.
“When we do 60-some pulls a year, I haven’t got any time for the tractors to break down,” said Van De Creek, who works full-time as service manager for Shouse Implement, a John Deere dealership in Abilene.
The pulls are held on a 30-foot track. Surfaces vary-grass, dirt or cement-depending on the grounds where the event is held.
“The more solid the better,” he said. “It works out better for the kids that way.”
Leigh Ann Van De Creek handles registration, signing up the children about an hour before the pull begins and assigning them to one of nine color-coded age groups.
Once the children are lined up at the end of the track, the pull will begin, and each will have a turn to pedal a tractor and see how far they can pull the weighted sled.
“Whichever kid pulls the sled the farther will win,” Bill Van De Creek said.
If more than one child pulls the full distance of 30 feet-called a “full pull”-they will pull again, this time with more weight added on the sled.
“That way we’ll decide who the winner is,” he said.
The event is open to as many children as choose to participate.
“If we get over a 120 or 130 kids,” Van De Creek said, “we’ll probably bring out the second sled and run two (pulls) at once.”