No piece of machinery quite speaks to the spirit of the Barton County Fair quite the way the tractor does. And whether it’s the kiddie tractor pull, or the big guys testing the mettle of their antique tractors, there’s certainly a long-time avid following.
Proof of this was the winning entry in the Fair Theme quilt contest. A t-shirt quilt included squares representing commemorative tractor-pull designs over the past 25 years of the Barton County Fair.
Antique tractor pull
Names like Massey-Ferguson, Case, International Harvester, John Deere, and more are brands antique tractor owners hold dear. And colors are equally coveted, whether they be red, orange, yellow, green or blue. Some machines at the Barton County 2016 Antique Tractor Pull held Saturday afternoon, July 9, appear as they did the day they came off the assembly line, lovingly restored and kept in sheds for events just like these. Others continue to serve their owners in the field, even 50 years or more after they were considered the latest thing. The fact they can still pull their weight in the field as well as the track are part of their charm and their allure to those who have an appreciation for things practical and mechanical.
Owners of these old-folks don’t take it easy on the elderly machines either. Instead, they hook them up to a contraption that progressively moves a heavy weight across a conveyor as the tractor pulls. The distribution of the weight makes it progressively more difficult for the tractor to pull, and so it continues until tires spin and dust and dirt fly. The winner in each division is determined by how far the tractor can go before it is stopped.
Putting on a sanctioned tractor pull requires the help of several volunteers, and they work in all types of weather from spring to fall. For 25 years, Robert Smolic helped with the Barton County Fair Pull, until he suffered from heat stroke during the 2015 event. Since then, he has to take care to stay cool in the summer, so he was unable to help with this year’s fair. To recognize his service to the event, however, he received a special award Saturday afternoon.
The Gary Foster Memorial “Good Old Boy” Award was started in 2001, according to Foster’s step-daughter, Sherri Brantley. She was there with her grandchildren, Steele Brack, and TeeJay Janousek and infant great-grandchild, Teddy Janousek, Saturday afternoon to present the trophy to Smolic.
Brantley recalled how Foster collected old tractors, but never had one fixed up enough to compete with. In 2001, the family started the award to recognize “good old boys” like Foster, and she and her grandchildren have been fixtures at the Barton County pull for years, she said.
Results for the antique tractor pull can be found in the Thursday edition of the Tribune’s Barton County Fair Results special section.
Each year, promoters of the tractor pull design a t-shirt that contestants receive with their registration. Twenty-five years ago, Gerald Mauler started the fair’s tractor pull, and in the early years, trophies were awarded to the top three placers. But, according to his wife, Lois, a person only needs so many trophies. In later years, all contestants received a t-shirt, and the top three placers received a cash prize.
The Mauler’s daughter, Kathy, put together a quilt made out of 15 of the t-shirts collected over the years and presented it to her father recently. Lois made a last-minute decision to enter that quilt in the Theme Division of the fair, and the quilt was awarded Best of Show.
The Maulers have enjoyed being a vital part of the pull, and Lois noted it attracts pullers from all over the state of Kansas, as well as from Oklahoma.
While the big kids played in the mud and dirt outside, Barton County kids ranging in age from four years-old to 18 competed in the Youth Tractor Pull event Saturday afternoon inside Expo 2. The annual event is sponsored by Barton County Farm Bureau. The state sanctioned event would determine qualifiers for the championship at the Kansas State Fair with the top three distances in each age group would go onto Hutchison State Fair for the championship on Sept. 11. The three top distances in each age group qualified and received medals.