Pulling for fun

Chad Frey
Olive Robinson  drives her 1959 Farmall tractor in the SCATA Antique Tractor Pull at the Harvey County Fair on Saturday. The event was the first antique tractor pull at the fair and represented the first event of the 2020 Harvey County Fair.

Olivia Robinson first participated in a tractor pull at the age of 11, climbing onto a 1949 Farmall to see just how far she could get that tractor to pull a weighted sled.

This last weekend she was doing it again — the only female puller at the first antique tractor pull at the Harvey County Fair.

“It is a family tradition,” she said. “My dad started pulling with by grandpa back in high school. It has been a family tradition.”

She stands out from the crowd of pullers at Sumner County Antique Tractor Association pulls — and not just because of her gender. Her tractor stands out as well.

Farmall, which stopped production in the 1980s, used two color schemes in the company’s history — a blueish gray until 1936, and red every year following. The company never painted a tractor purple with silver lettering. And it never put a Kansas State Power Cat on the cowling.

“We are big K-State fans,” Robinson said. “My first color was blue, but Fords are that color. I thought, let’s go with purple because I love the Wildcats. I helped him take it all apart and put it back together, and with the painting.”

Robinson has been pulling with the tractor for about 18 years and was still one of the youngest competitors at the county fair event. The field of pullers was predominately men over the age of 50.

“They have welcomed me with open arms,” she said.

To get younger people involved in the sport, she said, the farm division is where to look. For that division, a tractor does not need to be restored or modified. For that division, any tractor built before 1959 and that runs will do.

“I would love for kids to come out and watch this,” Robinson said. “If they like it, I would love for them to find an old tractor and start pulling in farm.”

Her tractor, fully restored, stays at her father’s farm near Goessel. She doesn’t have room at her home in Bel Aire. She pulls about two or three times year — usually at the state fair and Hillsboro.

This year the Hillsboro pull was canceled when the Marion County Fair canceled most events. That pull was moved by Myron Regier and the SCATA president to the Harvey County Fairgrounds and was hosted on Saturday night.

Fair officials told The Kansan they would like to see the event become a permanent addition to the fair, possibly sharing Saturday night with the saddle club rodeo.

“There is a bond with the fair association,“ Robinson said. ”We hope we can make this annual.“

She said a strong, long pull “feels pretty good.”

“Especially when I am in the only woman in the class, I like to beat the older guys,” Robinson said. “I do it a lot when I do our club pulls. I enjoy it. I like winning, I am a competitive person and I like to be first. I get more fun out of the older guys being behind me.”

The Harvey County Fair is limited this year, with 4-H events moved to online and most of the fair buildings remaining closed due to COVID-19 for this weekend’s fair. On the calendar is two nights of rodeo — 8 p.m. July 31 and Aug. 1 — at the saddle club arena, a 3 p.m. Aug. 1 mud volleyball tournament and a 6:30 p.m. Aug. 2 demolition derby. The fair will host a carnival from 6 to 11 p.m. July 31, Aug. 1 and 2.

Antique tractors -- built in 1959 or before -- of all makes and models were part of the antique tractor pull Saturday at the Harvey County Fairgrounds.