By Barry Dalton
MEXICO—The Fourth Annual Central Missouri Honor Flight Tractor Pull roared into Mexico on Saturday, Aug. 11, at the 4-H grounds.
The event was moved to Audrain County this year because of the stricter COVID-19 rules in Boone County. To the volunteers’ surprise, the event drew a bigger crowd than it did in Sturgeon last year.
“Usually there’s a lot, but nothing like this, nothing at all,” said Dale Griffith, father of the event’s organizer and a volunteer. Griffith said he thinks people were just eager to get out of the house.
“They come here because they like the excitement,” he said. “They like the veteran part of it—the Honor Flight—we send a lot of people every year. Of course, we haven’t this year because of COVID.”
So many spectators showed up, in fact, that the designated parking areas filled up quickly. Buses drove people in from nearby parking lots at Dawn Foods and Sydenstricker John Deere, but some attendees began parking in the neighboring fields across from the event.
“One guy said for us not to ask him [about where he parked] and then nobody would get in trouble,” an event volunteer said. “He has four-wheel drive.”
Spectators continued to arrive over an hour after the pull began. Volunteers greeted attendees as they arrived and collected the entrance fees at the 4-H gate. They missed out on most of the show, but they said they liked helping because of the veterans who get to have such a meaningful experience as a result.
“I knew a gentleman that fought in Vietnam who went on one of the flights. Not crying is not an option when you go, he told me,” said Eddy Woolfolk.
“Just to see the smiles on their faces makes it worth it,” added Debbie Reuch.
Inside the event’s arena and stands, everyone seemed to be enjoying the evening’s competition as spectators pulled beers and sodas from their coolers, smokestacks blew black plumes and powerful engines rumbled and rolled.
“174 hooks—wow! What a great night of tractor and truck pulling!” the event’s Facebook page proclaimed the next morning.
Over the past three years, the tractor pull has raised $115,000 for the Central Missouri Honor Flight, pulling in $47,000 at last year’s event in Sturgeon. The organizers said they would announce the final numbers for this year’s event in a few weeks.
At the Mexico council meeting before the event, Deputy City Manager Roger Haynes commented that the event would likely not return to Audrain County next year. Mexico donated $2,500 to the Honor Flight from its Tourism Tax.