Farm Horizons, October 2013

Pedal pull is all about the kidpower

By Matt Kane

GROVE CITY — Coke or Pepsi? Ford or Chevy? McDonalds or Burger King?

Life is full of heated debates and preferences over products, and that is also true in the farming world, especially when it comes to tractors.

“For some reason John Deere and International Harvester people don’t like each other,” said Frank Marshall of Grove City.

Marshall, who farms peas, navy beans, soy beans and field corn on 440 acres, has been around tractors for most of his 75 years of life, and he has seen the stubbornness that comes with tractor preferences.

That stubbornness is often passed down from father to son, and it stays true even off the crop fields. Marshall sees kids bleed green or red on asphalt and concrete during the pedal tractor pulls he has been putting on with his family for almost three decades.

“If there are John Deere kids, there are times they refuse to pull if they know it’s an International Harvester,” said Marshall, who has been running Marshall Chase Pedal Pullers, also known as Little Hooker Pulls, for 25 years. “One dad tried to do his best to get his son to pull with a John Deere, but he wouldn’t do it.”

Refusing to ride a certain brand means a kid cannot compete in the pedal pull competition at all, as one tractor is assigned to each of the eight age groups — 4-11.

The 4-year-olds use a John Deere; the 5-year-olds a AGCO Allis Chalmers; the 6-year-olds an International Harvester 560; the 7-year-olds a White; the 8-year-olds a Massey Ferguson; the 9-year-olds a John Deere; the 10-year-olds a Cat Challenger; and the 11-year-olds an International Harvester.

The set-ups on the store-bought tractors Little Hooker uses are modified to fit the age groups of the children, but, other than that, the only difference is color.

Unless it’s green or red, “We’ve never had a kid have trouble getting on anything else,” Marshall said.

The competitiveness the kids show when it comes to brands also translate to their will to win during competitions.

“Sometimes we have kids who excel at this who may not excel and other things,” Marshall said. “Like all things, there are kids who don’t like to lose. The kids enjoy it, and that is the main thing.”

One kid who refused to lose was 10-year-old Logan Smith of Hamburg at the Carver County Fair. He pedal pulled the sled with the maximum weight of 330 pounds the complete 48 feet.

“We couldn’t stop him,” Marshall said.

The Carver County Fair was one of 28 events Little Hooker attended with its tractors this summer, from the middle of June all the way through the end of August.

“It fills up our weekends in the summer,” said Marshall, who works the events with his wife, Mary Anne, and daughter and son-in-law.

The annual stops include the Delano 4th of July; Meeker, Carver, and McLeod county fairs; the Scott Carver Thresher Show; Montrose Days; Norwood Young America Stiftungsfest; and Dassel Red Rooster Days.

“We can vary from 35 to 135 kids. Certain places it is very popular,” said Marshall.

Red Rooster Days, which runs on Labor Day weekend and is the final event on the Little Hooker schedule, along with Richmond River Lake Days, which is around the 4th of July, are two of the more popular events. Both attract more than 100 pedalers.

Little Hooker can do as many as 35 pulls in one summer, and sees close to 3,000 kids compete.

Those big numbers put a smile on Marshall’s face. He sees his tractor pulls as the one event that puts focus on kids ages 4-11 during town festivals.

“A lot of town celebrations and county fairs tend to overlook this age group as far as something to do, so I think that is why pedal pull is popular,” said Marshall. “Every year we start out with a new batch of 4-year-olds.”

Marshall fell into organizing pedal tractor pulls as a Meeker County Fair board member. He participated in full-size tractor pulls in the 1960s.

“I patterned my first pedal pull after the full-size competition,” he said.

The concept is the same, with drivers attempting to pull a sled a certain distance as the weight on the sled is increased. The biggest difference is, instead of horsepower, pedal pull uses kidpower.

“A kid who knows how to pedal a bicycle or if a kid is involved in something that promotes leg strength, that makes a better puller,” said Marshall.

Little Hooker covers central Minnesota, and is one of 17 pedal pull companies listed under the umbrella of the Minnesota State Pedal Pulls organization.

Local competitions are free to the kids because of the funding from local organizations and businesses. Little Hooker donates $25 from each show to the state competitions to allow the top three pullers from each local competition to compete at the state competitions, which, annually, is the first Saturday after Labor Day in Hutchinson.

At the local events, boys and girls of the same age compete against each other. They are separated into gender at the state tournament and so on.

After the state competition, qualifiers compete at the national championship at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD.

“Minnesota comes back pretty proud. When kids from Minnesota compete at nationals, they usually bring back a fair share of trophies,” Marshall said.

Seven Minnesotans pedaled their ways to a national championship in Mitchell Sept. 21 and a total of 27 Minnesota pedalers finish in the top five of their respective classes.

Minnesota’s national champions are Litchfield’s Joe Barka (age 4 boys), Grove City’s Lilly Boonstra (5 girls), Long Prairie’s Allie Lemke (8 girls), Eyota’s Tifani Dessner (9 girls), Lonsdale’s Reice Narum (9 boys), Mahtowa’s Sean Nyblom (10 boys) and Faribault’s Devin Malecha (11 boys).

These winners will compete in the international competition in August 2014.

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