GOSHEN — Diehard tractor pull fans know there are two words to remember at every event — “hearing protection.”
Ears up and down the track at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds were plugged with foam or covered with muffs Thursday as tricked-out tractors pulling weighted sleds burned fuel and elevated the decibels.
“It’s a whole lot of horsepower on a set of rails and big tires,” said driver Steve Kier of Missouri as he used a dusting brush in the infield to put the final shine on his limited pro stock tractor, The Midnight Screamer. Kier and fellow drivers Jeff Lance and Rod Schottel made the trip to the fair together, hauling their tractors in a semi rig. It was Kier’s first visit to the local fair.
“It looks like it’s even bigger than the Missouri State Fair,” Kier said.
Across the infield, driver Steve Bunnage was relaxing near his massive, four-engine unlimited super modified tractor, which didn’t look like anything that could plow a field. The Takes A Lickin machine is powered by four V-8 custom-made Hemi engines that produce 10,000 horsepower, according to crew member Jerry Jones.
Bunnage runs the machine on the Lucas Oil Pro Pullers League tour. He currently sits in second place. After his runs Thursday night at the fair the crew was set to pack up and drive to Evansville for a pulling event there today.
“It’s about like a family on the road,” Bunnage said of the pullers league. “Every puller will help you get on the track. Nobody wants to beat you unless you’re on the track.”
Bunnage has been pulling for about 20 years and learned the sport watching and helping his father, who was involved in the sport for about 40 years. So he has visited the local fair many times.
“There’s a lot more people here,” Bunnage said, in comparison with some of the other venues to which he travels.
He also appreciates all the work that goes into converting the harness-racing track — which is kept soft for the horses — into a more firm surface for the massive, tire-churning rigs that need to grip the dirt to win.
That reconstruction effort began at the end of the Hunter Hayes concert Wednesday night, according to Cork Wagner, the chairman of the fair’s tractor pull committee. The work was to continue after the pull as the racetrack dirt is replaced before everyone goes home.
Wagner was watching the event unfold from the grandstands stage, and without hearing protection.
“That’s what your fingers are for,” he said with a big laugh.
A volunteer crew of dozens worked overnight to remove the surface from the horse track and compact the ground to make it ready for the tractors, according to Wagner. And as the sun rose over the infield Thursday, Wagner arrived. But four fans had beaten him to the track and were seated in the grandstands.
By the 8 a.m. race time, the grandstands were nearly filled. The popularity of the event is a sea change that Wagner said has occurred during his 40 years of connection to the event.
“Over the years we went from one of the worst days of the Elkhart County Fair to one of the best at the Elkhart County Fair,” Wagner said.
That popularity extends way beyond the few thousands who packed the local stands. Wagner said the event may be broadcast at a later date on CBS. Drivers said the event will also appear on the cable channel MAV TV.
- Breaking News
UPDATE: Westview student in critical condition after crash
A Westview High School student remained in critical condition Friday afternoon following a two-vehicle crash Thursday in LaGrange County.
Jaid Rex, 16, was listed in critical at Parkview Regional Medical Center in Fort Wayne. Her sister, Mikayla Rex, 18, was listed in fair condition Friday.
Home invasion suspect pleads guilty in court
One of the suspects involved in a home invasion, where a New Paris couple were confined in their home, pleaded guilty to several felonies this morning in Elkhart Circuit Court.
Two injured near Emma this morning
he LaGrange County Sheriff's Department is reporting one person was airlifted to Fort Wayne and another taken to Parkview LaGrange by ambulance from a crash at 200 South and Ind. 5 shortly before 8 a.m. today near Emma. Police are still working at the scene of the accident and motorists are advised to find an alternate route.
72-year-old among arrested drug suspects
Five face felony charges.
Meth lab found in Middlebury
Police raided a suspected methamphetamine lab in Middlebury Monday.
Middlebury police went to a residence in Crystal Valley Mobile Home Park, 206 York Drive, around 12:30 p.m. regarding a possible lab, according to town Police Chief Mike McCloughen.
Man pleads guilty in Twin Pines home invasion
One of the men charged in connection with a November home invasion in Goshen has pleaded guilty to the crime.
Antoine A. McDuffie, 21, Elkhart, pleaded guilty in Elkhart Circuit Court Monday to Class B felony charges of armed robbery, burglary, criminal confinement and conspiracy to commit burglary.
Man who robbed Bristol bank sentenced
A South Bend man has been sentenced for robbing a Bristol bank as well as a bank in Edwardsburg, Mich., last year.
Darius Witherspoon, 21, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in South Bend this week to nearly 13 years in prison with three years of supervised release.
Supreme Industries sells shuttle-bus business
Goshen's Supreme Industries sells its shuttle bus business to Forest River Inc.
Water in Millersburg should be boiled after water main breaks
A boil order for the entire town of Millersburg has been issued after a water main break Friday.
Minor injuries in 12-vehicle pile up near Nappanee
Minor injuries sent several victims to local hospitals following a 12-vehicle pile up along Ind. 19 near Nappanee Thursday afternoon.
- More Breaking News Headlines
- UPDATE: Westview student in critical condition after crash