Brothers Trey (left) and Nick Evans, of Van Wert, competed in the National Kiddie Tractor Pullers Association Grand National pull on Sunday in Columbus. The brothers have been involved in kiddie tractor pulls since an early age. (Times Bulletin/John Parent)
By John Parent
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
COLUMBUS — On a weekend when the severe weather laid claim to most every sporting event in the region, a handful of local kids made their way through the snow to compete at the Grand National Pull held by the National Kiddie Tractor Pullers Association.
The event, held on Saturday and Sunday during Power Show Ohio at the Ohio State Fairgrounds in Columbus, featured two days of open pulls and of championship pulls for kids, ages 3-8, who have qualified throughout the year. Children from all over the country had a chance to qualify and to come to Columbus for this event.
The top 10 placers in each Grand National pull received trophies with the top three placers in each age group’s open division getting the invite to compete at next year’s Grand National pull. Children compete in the division corresponding to their age at the time they qualified.
For Nick and Trey Evans of Van Wert, the weather wasn’t enough to keep them away.
Trey had qualified for the Grand National pull by winning his 7-8 year old age group during the Van Wert County Fair. His younger brother, Nick, placed third in the same age bracket. The boys are the children of Jackie and Mike Evans.
“Nick had qualified at the fair (in 2012), in the 5-6 year old group, but we decided not to come down (to the Grand Nationals),” said Mike Evans. “This being Trey’s last year, we figured we’d better make the trip.”
There were three age groups worth of kiddie tractor pullers in Columbus over the weekend, and well over 200 kids took their turns on the various pedal tractors on Sunday.
Nick had his turn first for the Evans brothers, pulling 400 lbs of weight to a distance of 28 feet 10 inches, falling just short of capturing a “full pull.” Two pullers later, Trey took the seat of “Red Hot,” the NKTPA’s custom-built pedal tractor, and completed the full 30-foot course. He was one of 24 in the 7-8 age group to gain a full pull and advance to a pull-off.
Among those joining Trey was Delphos resident Lillian Baughn, daughter of Valerie and John Parent and Joseph Baughn, who qualified for the Grand Nationals by placing third in her age group during Convoy Community Days.
The sled weight was bumped up to 500 lbs for the open class pull-off, but to 550 lbs for those pulling in the Grand Nationals. That extra 150 lbs took its toll on puller after puller, and not one of the 24 in the pull-off could repeat a full pull with the increased weight. Trey’s second attempt ended at 17 feet three inches while Lillian’s fell just short of the 30-foot line, leaving her at 28 feet six-and-a-half inches.
Lillian’s distance was good enough to place second overall.
Though the day ended in disappointment for the Evans brothers, both agreed that the kiddie tractor pull was fun and, though Trey is now too old to compete, Nick is looking forward to getting back on the pedal tractor and trying again to make it back to Columbus.
“They’ve been doing these (kiddie pulls) since they were three years old,” Mike Evans added. “Either at the fair or at Willshire Days.”
For Lillian, her tractor pulling experience has been mostly made up of trips to the Canal Days festival in Delphos or during competitions at Spencerville’s Summerfest, though neither of those events are NKTPA venues.
Also competing in Columbus was four-year-old Phoenix Tucker, also of Van Wert. Phoenix, the son of Brittany and Joe Tucker, qualified by winning his age group at Convoy’s annual festival.
Though Phoenix achieved a full pull during the first round in his age group, his second run, with weight increased to 350 lbs, wound up with the sled getting stuck at 16 feet eight inches.
Though anyone who qualified in Ohio was also eligible to compete in the state championship pulls, held on Saturday, the weather was too much an obstacle for any of the local competitors to overcome. When asked how the drive was, headed to Columbus through the snow, Nick Evans summed it up with one word: “scary.”