It looks like a serious activity, but for many it’s a fun day in the sun.
"We’re just playing around on tractors today," Montesano’s Al Gillman said with a laugh. "I like to call them big-boy toys. It’s just a way to have a good time."
Gillman’s big-boy toy is a 1955 Oliver Super 77. And he was showing off his green, rumbling machine during a tractor pull Saturday at a festival at Wilcox Family Farms in Roy.
The best way to show off a tractor, he said, is by dragging a heavy sled until the weight overpowers the engine.
The competition is largely something fun to do on the weekends, Gillman said.
"I always have a good time at something like this," he said. "It’s tough not to."
The festival, which attracted about 300 people by mid-day Saturday, offered more than just tractor pulls. Buses took spectators on tours of the farm’s grounds. Hay rides ferried children around the fields. Vintage tractors, fire engines and cars were on display. And trailers served up ice cream, lemonade, barbecue and a constant hum from generators.
Many of the visitors – who came from as far away as Renton and Poulsbo – are members of the Rainier Two-Cylinder Club, a vintage tractor association. They organized and ran Saturday’s competition, which continues today and is held in honor of Larry Nelson, a longtime club member who died in October 2006.
"We wanted to do something to honor him," said Larry Fugle, the club’s activities director. Each of the award ribbons carries a photo button adorned with an image of Nelson atop a John Deere tractor.
Seventy-nine people entered Saturday’s competition, which required each tractor to pull a 36,000-pound, progressive-resistance sled. There are several categories based on the weight of the tractor and its initial speed.
The pull was the first for Auburn’s Greg Lichty, who has spent the past year rebuilding a 1937 John Deere Unstyled A. He admitted he didn’t know much about the strategy of tractor pulls – the distance each tractor reaches depends on several factors, from how much air pressure each tire receives to the fine-tuning of the engine – before this weekend.
And after his performance, he laughed that he still wasn’t an expert.
"What did I learn?" he said. "Not much, to be honest. But I’ll get back on and go at it again."
Not all vintage tractor enthusiasts took part in the competition.
Larry and Clara Hammel live just across the street from Wilcox Family Farms. Clara said both are "big tractor fans" and were impressed by the selection on display.
"We’ve just always been farmers and like the old tractors," Larry said. "We’re just here to walk around, watch the pulls and see what they have."
The Prantil family of Poulsbo checked out the dozens of cars on display, like a blue and black 1928 Nash and the black Ford Model T.
And even though Colebe Prantil is 4, he wasn’t too young to appreciate the flawless chrome bumper of a blue-green 1955 Buick. The child loves older vehicles, his father, 38-year-old Christian Prantil said, and he’s already learning how to drive a smaller Farmall A tractor.
The festival was fun for mom and dad, too.
"I always tell people I was born in the wrong era," Christian Prantil said. "The antique cars and tractors bring me to that as close as possible."