Members of Sewickley Grange take part in tractor pull
Almost 100 people gathered at the Sewickley Township Community Fair on Monday night hoping to see one thing — teams pulling a 5,000 pound tractor.
“I’m expecting people to be sliding, falling on their face. … I’m expecting a lot of laughing,” said Pam DeMaglio, 60, of West Newton, who had never seen human tractor pull before.
Working in teams of three or four, members pulled the tractor across a dirt arena using a tug-of-war rope. Putting the tractor in neutral, one person sat on top for steering and braking.
Based on how long it takes a team to pull the tractor across the finish line, those who come in first place win $60, those in second win $40 and those in third win $20.
Starting about 7:30 p.m., four men on each team stood in a single-file line holding the rope. After the countdown, the team pulled the tractor across the dirt, dust flying as they worked toward the finish line 100 feet away. The first team finished in 13.7 seconds, and the second team finished in 14.4 seconds.
“I saw it on the internet, and a fair patron asked to do it,” said fair President David Hager of Smithton. “I said ‘OK.’ We’re pretty easy going here.”
Replacing the annual horse show with human tractor pulling and a blindfolded garden tractor driving contest, Hager did not know what to expect from the event prior to it starting. The tractor came from a Smithton farm earlier Monday.
“Like I said, we’re pretty lax around here,” Hager said. “We kind of let people kind of do what they want to do if they’re not going to get hurt. It’s kind of a little more fun.”
Hager added the blindfolded garden tractor driving contest was a hit when the fair held the event more than 10 years ago.
“I’ve never seen (human tractor pulling) anywhere, so I’m kind of curious about that. … I didn’t even know (the fair) was here. I was just searching on Facebook and came across it, and it’s something for the grandson to do. He’s only 21⁄2, and this popped up and I thought we’d go give it a try,” said Mark Swiantek, 53, of Smithton.
As part of the Sewickley Grange, the fair has been hosted for 84 years at the Sewickley Township farm.
The Grange, based around halls that were a center of civic life in many rural American communities, popped up in agricultural communities in the wake of the Civil War. It championed efforts to break cartels that controlled grain towers and railroad shipping and championed rural electrification efforts to light up remote farm communities.
Across the country, almost a million members were counted at the organization’s peak, a number that has since dwindled as the population shifted from rural to urban centers and farming came to occupy an ever-smaller portion of the nation.
The Pennsylvania State Grange is seeing a similar fate, with almost 96,000 members at its peak in 1922, and fewer than 10,000 members last year. Many halls have been sold, repurposed or leveled.
Those that do exist today host ice cream socials, dinners, dances and Grange meetings.
The Sewickley Township Community Fair runs through July 20. Events throughout the week include a 4X4 truck pull and a milk-chugging contest. A full list of events can be found on the Sewickley Township Community Fair’s Facebook page, at facebook.com/Sewickley-Township- Community-Fair.
Events start at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 6 p.m. Thursday and Saturday and 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .