Haylee and Hannah Betz of Portage, Ohio, plug their ears to muffle the noise of tractors competing at the 46th annual National Tractor Pulling Championships in Bowling Green.
BOWLING GREEN -- Sitting in his lawn chair printed with the Canadian flag, Pete Deleeuw kept his eyes fixed on a smoke-spewing gigantic tractor as it roared along an infield at the Wood County Fairgrounds.
Having driven from Hamilton, Ont., to Bowling Green, Mr. Deleeuw was one of the 60,000 people who came from near and far for the 46th National Tractor Pulling Championships.
"This is my first year coming here," Mr. Deleeuw said. "I pulled tractors at home. This is like the Super Bowl for tractor pullers. I came for the joy of seeing so many great tractors."
During the last three days, more than 300 tractor pullers from across the country and from other parts of the world, including Canada, raced in 12 divisions, ranging from modified minis to super farm tractors.
"We are the largest tractor-pulling event in the nation," said Dave Schultz, spokesman of the Northwestern Ohio Tractor Pullers Association. "This year's event is the biggest one that we've ever had."
Jeremy Smith of Mednia, Ohio, races his John Deer tractor -- "310 Express" -- down the track at Wood County Fairgrounds during the third and final day of the 46th Annual National Tractor Pulling Championships at in Bowling Green. Smith placed first in the 10,000-pound Pro Stock Tractors class.
Supported by an enthusiastic crowd, tractor pullers tried to pull the weight exchange as far as they could. When the distance passed 300 feet, announcers shouted out "full pull," and the crowd clapped and cheered.
But sometimes engines shut down at the halfway point. "What matters is the distance, not the time," said Mr. Schultz, of Custar in Wood County.
Many tractor pullers have participated in the annual event for many years. Tom and Steve Bollinger of Stonington, Ill., brought their special V12 Allison Aircraft engines to race in the unlimited modified division on Sunday afternoon.
"It's real exciting when you get into the winner's circle," said Tom Bollinger. "I have raced in the past 15 years. My brother and I do it as a family event. … I like the great hospitality and the great atmosphere, but it is tough to win, because only the best of the best come."
Mr. Bollinger's team has done well in the last few years, winning three championships and numerous other awards.
Brian Korth of Beaver Dam, Wis., was one of the stars this year.
Taking first place of the light super stock division, Mr. Korth said that he enjoyed winning in front of such a big crowd.
"This is my seventh year here. I have been on a tractor for 35 years. I started when I was 16 years old." Mr. Korth said with a proud smile. "My secret for success is hard work and experience."
Mr. Korth and his team have won three years in a row. They named their trophy-winning tractor "Considered Armed and Dangerous."
"Because our whole team is armed and dangerous," he explained.
The annual event at Bowling Green has grown to be the nation's largest in terms of both competitors and spectators.
In addition to the tractor-pulling, it featured various activities for families, such as concerts, a toy show, kiddie pedal pull, and a display of retired tractors.
"I love coming here. I love seeing all the tractors race and checking out the retired tractors," said Dylan Becerra, 10, of Woodville, Ohio.
Attending with his family, Dylan said he has been to the event for the last three years.
He said his favorite retired tractor at the museum was the Sassy Massey, a turbine-powered modified tractor built in 1978.
The event organizer, the Northwestern Ohio Tractor Pullers Association, is a private group made up of 200 active members, said Terry Andryc of Maumee, a former association director who served in that capacity for eight years.
Nicknaming themselves "Blue Shirts," the club members work hard to organize the national event.
"We do it on our own," Mr. Andryc said, commenting on the challenges of organizing the annual event.
"It's a labor of love. We enjoy the sport and putting the shows on," he said. "I have been involved for 21 years. I have met a lot of competitors and made friends with them.
"Every year we look forward to coming here. It's almost like a reunion."
Contact Liyan Chen at: email@example.com or 419-724-6065.
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