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Inaugural tractor pull draws hobbyists, farmers to Copenhagen


COPENHAGEN — For a fleeting moment on Saturday afternoon, crowds sitting in lawn chairs outside a 300-foot dirt track at the Copenhagen fire hall watch 74-year-old Charles H. Lincoln — dressed in a red fire suit and helmet — hop onto his shiny red tractor in silence.

A field of 34 tractors that includes Mr. Lincoln’s 45-horsepower Red Baron are competing in the pull, which was being hosted for the first time by the Copenhagen Fire Department as a fundraiser.

The announcer tells spectators over the loudspeakers that it’s Mr. Lincoln’s first time competing in a tractor pull with this machine. They also learn he’s wearing the fire suit because of the flammable alcohol-based fuel he’s using to give the tractor an extra boost.

Next, organizers connect the shiny red tractor to a heavy, blue-colored sledge that it will pull down the runway. It’s about twice the size of the tractor, and its operator sits underneath an umbrella to ward off the sun’s heat.

An inscription on the back of the Tacoma resident’s tractor reads: “DRIVE IT LIKE YOU STOLE IT.” But, with its angled fenders and dirt-free exterior, the tractor looks more sleek than it does aggressive. It looks like a luxury model that’s built only for display.

Finally, the operator sitting in the sledge gives Mr. Lincoln the green light to start.

A loud blast from the engine suddenly breaks the silence, rattling the audience’s eardrums. The tractor’s wheels spin aimlessly on the ground for five seconds — kicking dirt in the air — until they gain traction and send Mr. Lincoln forward with a jolt.

A heavy “transfer box” on the sledge gradually moves forward to push a panel located at its front end deeper into the ground, making the tractor do more work. After nearing the end of the runway, the Red Baron reluctantly stops its charge. The announcer says that Mr. Lincoln has claimed the farthest mark of the day so far, 212 feet.

“I’ve been doing this since 1965, when I started with a little 9-horsepower garden tractor,” Mr. Lincoln laughed. “But now I’m racing a tractor with 70 horsepower (later) today.”

About 20 tractor pullers from the Rochester area made the trip north for the inaugural pull in the small village.

Allen W. Cole, 79, was among several members from the Central New York Garden Tractor Pullers Association who participated. He drove a huge tractor with 700 horsepower, named Old Willie II, that made the lawn tractors look like miniature toys.

Its V-8, 400-cubic-inch small block engine was eye candy for other competitors who stayed to watch the biggest class of tractors compete.

Mr. Cole , who was inspired by his son to build the tractor five years ago, said he’s always devising ways to fine-tune it.

“We recut the tires so that the straight grooves are angled,” he explained. “They now create less friction on the track and perform better.”

Mr. Cole said he intentionally “starts out slow so the tractor can get a hold of the track before pressing down the gas pedal.”

He said his son, Mark P., couldn’t bring his 6,500 horsepower tractor to attend the event because he competed at a pull in Canada Friday night.

“My son got into this first and I travel with him across the east coast to pulls,” Mr. Cole said. “I’m always the oldest puller at competitions, but I have fun talking about tractors with other people.”

What’s the main allure for these hobbyists?

“We’re a bunch of rednecks having fun out here,” said Patrick J. St. Louis, a volunteer firefighter in Copenhagen. He organized the event with about 20 other firefighters to raise money for the department.

The turnout was unexpectedly strong, he said, and the department plans to organize another pull this fall.

“We’ve had people come from 200 miles away and local farmers who drove their lawn tractors here,” he said. “They’re all here to have a good time.”

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