By Louis Wyatt
ARCOLA — The Arcola National Truck and Tractor Pull gets a little bigger every year, and in 2019 spectators will be rewarded for their loyal following with some tougher competition. The three-day event begins Thursday.
Spectators have cheered on Michindoh pullers on Thursday nights throughout recent years, but this year will be a step up as the event instead hosts the Indiana Pulling League.
“We gain sponsors and spectators every year,” said Matt Butts, tractor pull chairman and a member of the Arcola Volunteer Fire Department. “Last year was down because of the heat and we got rained out a couple years ago, but our Thursday night is going to be a lot bigger this year.”
Thursday’s event will include two tractor classes and two truck classes. Friday and Saturday night, members of the National Tractor Pullers Association will compete for the championship. Gates open at 5 p.m. both nights, and the pulls start at 7 p.m.
The beer tent will return again this year, and food vendors will offer popular favorites including sausage, hot dogs, elephant ears and curly fries. Members of the Arcola Lions Club will also return with their popcorn trailer, and vendors will be on hand with truck gear, T-shirts, novelties and earplugs.
Saturday’s pull will be an even bigger community affair, as Pulling for Arcola Day returns for its second year. Members of the Arcola community have been planning several activities throughout the day to keep visitors entertained before the pull. The day will begin with breakfast at the fire station at 7 a.m., followed by a flea market 8 a.m.-2 p.m. A motorcycle show will be 11 a.m.-1 p.m., during which spectators can vote on their favorite bike. Saint Patrick Catholic Church of Arcola will also host a kids’ decorated bike parade, beginning at the church at noon with departure at 12:30 p.m. for the fire station, where participants will be treated to popsicles.
Other kids’ activities and entertainment will be offered as well. Festivities will take place at the west end of the fire station, 11329 Railroad St.
The Arcola National Truck and Tractor Pull operates exclusively as a fundraiser for the Arcola Volunteer Fire Department. More than 300 volunteers join hands to make the event possible.
“Probably 95 percent of our budget comes from the tractor pull,” Butts said.
The pull is in its 66th year, having started in 1954 as part of the annual Arcola Days festival. In its earliest days, farm tractors pulled sleds with people standing on them for weight. Arcola Days eventually waned in popularity, but the pull survived as a standalone fundraiser for the fire department, and has grown into a spectacle that attracts visitors from all over the region.
“The smoke from the deasil and the roaring engines in the place get people going,” Butts said. “I’m sure everybody likes to see them break down and blow up too, but the drivers don’t like seeing that.”
Thursday, Friday and Saturday night’s pulls will be at Branning Park, 1 block north of Arcola Road on Eme Road, east on Reed Street.
All tickets are sold at the gate. The cost for Thursday night’s event is $10 for ages 13 and older, $5 for ages 6-12 and free for children five and younger. The cost Friday and Saturday is $16 for ages 13 and older, $5 for ages 6-12 and free for children 5 and younger. Weekend passes will also be available for purchase Thursday night for $32.
Coolers are allowed as long as they meet certain criteria. For more information visit arcolapull.org.