By Julie Ann Madden
You don’t need an association membership. You don’t need a souped up tractor or one with a fancy paint job.
All you need for this Saturday’s Akron Tractor Pull is that gut-feeling that it just might be fun to see how far your tractor can pull.
Or think it might just be fun to watch a tractor pull.
The fun will begin at 5 p.m. in the Akron Business Park, which is the former Akron airport grounds.
Young and old alike will be competing in this year’s pull, according to Tractor Pull coordinator Kyle Hoffman of Westfield.
The Akron-Westfield FFA Alumni will be operating a concession stand.
First Time Puller
Eleven-year-old Tristan Van Wyk of Alcester, S.D., may be the youngest puller.
And he can hardly wait until Saturday — it’ll be his first attempt at tractor pulling.
Tristan was about a year old when he took his first ride on a tractor around his grandparents’ yard. By age 5 or 6, he was driving a Farmall M tractor by himself — around and around the exterior of his Grandma Betty Van Wyk’s barn.
Although he doesn’t remember much about it, his mother, Selene, told The Akron Hometowner he was going so slow, just “inching” the tractor around that barn.
“He had a smile from ear to ear the whole time,” said his dad, Johnny, who has been tractor pulling at area tractor pulls for years.
While his dad is busy finishing painting his own tractor for Saturday, Tristan is practicing with the tractor his dad gave him, a Farmall 560 Diesel.
“He’s backing up to a pail, mimicking hooking up to a sled,” said Johnny.
Together they’ve tinkered with the tractor, installing a little bigger engine.
“He likes the black smoke (from tractors as they pull in competition),” said Johnny, “so maybe he can have some (with this bigger motor) come Saturday.”
Tristan’s favorite part of tractor pulling is when the front of the tractor leaves the ground as it struggles to pull the heavy-weighted skid.
He admits he might not pull too long of a distance Saturday but that doesn’t dim the Alcester-Hudson fifth grader’s enthusiasm.
Even though Tristan’s active in swimming, baseball, golf, football and wrestling, tractor pulling is his favorite activity.
“It involves my favorite kind of tractor,” said Tristan, “and it’s fun to do.”
He’s been following not only his grandfather’s steps but his father’s, older brother’s and cousins’.
Nick Hoffman, of Westfield, has the tractor pulling fever that caught his grandfather several decades ago.
Hoffman was riding on a Farmall 1206 tractor when he was just an infant — ironically it’s the same tractor he uses to tractor pull with now.
Hoffman, age 23, has had a lot of practice driving the tractor. He was just 11 years old when he began driving a variety of tractors to take hay to the family’s cattle.
Three years later, Hoffman entered his first tractor pull — his Uncle Ray Hoffman Jr.’s Old Iron Days in rural Westfield.
He was fortunate though — he was just 14 years old while his older siblings and cousins had to wait until they were 15 to begin the sport.
Over the past nine years the Akron-Westfield Class of 2009 alumnus has competed at Akron, Ireton, Le Mars, Westfield and Alcester, S.D.
That Farmall 1206 is still Hoffman’s favorite tractor.
“It always has been since I was a little kid,” said Hoffman who struggled to find a reason that it was his favorite.
“Smoke” was the reason he finally gave The Akron Hometowner. It produces a black cloud of smoke when its pulling.
“And it’s a very rare tractor,” added Hoffman who is an electrician apprentice at Thompson Electric Co. in Sioux City.
Just because it’s his favorite tractor doesn’t mean he wouldn’t compete on another. On July 4 at Correctionville, he competed on his uncle’s John Deere G. He’s also used his uncle’s Allis Chalmers D21; cousin’s Oliver 1850 and his father’s Farmall 806.
“Tractor pulling is fun,” said Hoffman. “I like being around the people, getting to meet different people and my family enjoys it.”
The whole male Hoffman crew will be at the Akron Tractor Pull. His cousin, Kyle, is coordinating the event as well as will compete. Plus Grandpa Ken, Uncle Steve, Dad Ron, Brother Joe and Cousin Bo will all be competing.
And the Hoffman women will be in their usual spot — either in the grandstand cheering on their clan or working in the announcer stand.
Austin Willer of rural Akron was born the Spring of 1990 and by that Fall he was riding in a John Deere 6620 combine with his father, Grayling.
By age 4 or 5, Austin was driving John Deere lawn mowers around the farm, and by age 8, he was driving tractors, possibly a John Deere 4430. Austin remembers baling straw in the oat field.
When he was 16, Austin convinced his father to let him do Akron’s 125th Anniversary Tractor Pull. That year, Austin pulled in the Plymouth County and Union County Fairs in addition to Akron’s with his John Deere 4010. Austin’s made at least one tractor pull annually ever since.
Shortly thereafter, Grayling joined his son in the sport.
Last fall, Austin acquired a John Deere 4430 for his hobby.
“I’ve always been a closet wild child — I like to go fast, like loud noise,” said Austin. “I’m a gear-head – just kind of a way to tinker with the tractor and learn about it.”
“Once you learn about the tractor and how it operates, you get it dialed in, then it just becomes fun,” he said. “Then you’re ready to try a new tractor. Every tractor is different.”
“It’s the thrill of the speed even though I don’t go that fast; the thrill of just being on the tractor and being around the people is what drew me in,” said Austin.
“As a member of the community, I wanted to give back and this is one thing I know how to do,” said Austin, giving most of the credit to Event Coordinator Kyle Hoffman who has done most of the planning and work behind the scenes.
“I encourage all area farmers to bring their tractor to Akron Saturday,” said Austin. “Experience something you haven’t in the past or maybe you gave up because of time or other reasons.”
“Make time because it’s something you can enjoy,” he said. “It’s something that can bring the community together.”
“Everyone is always worried about tearing their tractor up but as long as you don’t put too much power to it or just simply operate it in a normal matter, you won’t hurt it,” said Austin. “I’d encourage all to bring their tractor. Akron is the perfect chance for them to try.”
“Akron will welcome you with open arms,” he said. “If you have any questions on the rules or how to get involved, call me at Security National Bank or Kyle at 712-539-3670,” said Austin.