|Visitors look over
"Sassy Massey" owned by Gary Grimm of Bowling Green. (Photo: J.D.
As the son of a tractor puller, and a puller himself, Larry McVey never saw much of the behind-the-scenes
efforts it takes to put on the National Tractor Pulling Championships in Bowling Green.
But more than three decades later, McVey returned to the championship as a spectator, and got a glimpse
of all the hours logged by workers to give drivers a chance at a "full pull."
McVey was one of several retired pullers who spoke Saturday at the "rusty tailgate."
The tailgate took place in the annexation building at the fairgrounds where 10 retired tractors and two
mini-tractors were on display.
"I’m just amazed at how big this thing is looking out at the campground and the facility,"
McVey said. "There are thousands of people here."
"It wasn’t any one man. It was a group effort," he said.
He remembered the days when the pulls were just a three hour-long event, taking place on a single track.
McVey pulled in Bowling Green in the 1970s. He was living in Oakwood, Ill., then, but now lives in West
Since then, the event has grown, adding vendors, souvenir stands and side events.
And more people flock to Bowling Green to watch the machines in action.
Even the rigs hauling the tractors are bigger.
No longer are they hooked to the back of a pickup truck on a trailer. Now they are transported in large,
And the tractors themselves have been innovated over the years with turbos, blowers, more engines,
horsepower and torque.
But, McVey said, "It’s still the same getting the sled down the track."
Retired puller Kenny Smith, of Marion, told those gathered how he woke up at 4:30 a.m. Friday, raring to
go to the pulls.
"I guess I was kind of excited, like a kid, to come to Bowling Green," he said.
He has been to the national pulls every year since they began in Bowling Green 45 years ago. He and his
son stopped pulling in the 1990s.
"I’ve never missed one of them yet. So, I’ve come along with it," Smith said.
"The crowd on Friday night was maybe one of the biggest we have seen," Smith said.
It was clear from the retired pullers who spoke, the sport is about more than just powerful engines.
"This is home. This is family," McVey said.
Other pullers got choked up when asked to talk about memories or when names of pullers who have passed
away were read.
"It’s up to my generation and the younger generation …. to keep this sport alive," McVey