About an hour before the track at The Great Frederick Fair roared to life, one man quietly walked the dirt path with a hammer in his hand Monday night.
John Smith tapped the 200-foot marker into place 100 feet from the finish line at the tractor/truck pull. He donned a vibrant Lucas Oil shirt. He’s the director of East Coast Pro Pulling for the company.
“We’re usually here early and stay late,” Smith said. He estimated he’s been coming to the fair for 18 years.
The tractor/truck pull typically draws thousands of visitors.
“People like to see the black smoke and hear the noise,” Smith said.
Sitting in the grandstands early were West Virginia couple Donald Ayers and Gloria Kay Ayers. At 89 years old, Donald couldn’t quite remember how long he’d been coming to the tractor pull, but through the years, he’s maintained a fascination with the event.
“I just love the tractor pull,” he said, and wondered how some of the tractors held together after so many modifications.
Sitting atop two beastly modified tractors were father-son duo Tom and Dylan Owens of New York. The love for the sport passed from father to son.
“It was his fault,” Dylan jokingly said, referring to his dad, “I grew up with it.”
Though the crowd wouldn’t know it, a third generation of their family rode with Tom Owens. His tractor contained a specially built compartment for his father’s ashes.
Dylan was the first to pull Monday night, and he made it well across the 300-foot finish line. Dirt flew, and flames spurted from his ride. Between competitors, tractors swept the track to restore it as much as possible to pre-event conditions. Tractors competed in different classes depending on their weight and style.
Also competing in the modified class, Indiana resident Don Deane entered “Plumbers Nightmare,” a tractor built with two Huey helicopter motors and a General Electric T64 engine in the middle.
It was Deane’s first time competing at the Frederick Fairgrounds, and he had high hopes. His modified tractor had been troublesome lately, but competition is only part of the appeal for him.
“I just enjoy working on it and having fun,” he said.
For some spectators, it’s fun to feed into the rivalry between tractor brands, such as the green John Deeres and red Internationals.
“The farmers just wanted to pit their green against their red,” said Paul Stull, who’s been involved with the event for decades and helped shape the first tractor pull at the fair. He’s a former Maryland delegate and Walkersville teacher.
“Everybody has a good time,” Stull said, especially the winners. “I guess the biggest thing they get from it is bragging rights.”
Boonsboro resident Tina Moore was excited to see her husband Dave and son Davey race. Her daughter Tara usually races too, but she took on the role of a spectator and supporter Monday.
“It’s been a family tradition,” Tina said, and one she expects will continue. Tara and Davey each have young sons.
“We know it’ll keep going for generations to come,” Tina said.