Lawn mowers, animalsthrill at agricultural fair

First Posted: 10/7/2011

LUMBERTON —The marriage of practical and outlandish was displayed Friday night at the Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair when 60 lawn mowers took to the dirt of the grandstands.

The fourth annual Garden Tractor Pull, sponsored by the Lumber River Pullers, attracted souped-up mowers that would put any plain-Jane grass cutter to shame.

“It’s like rednecks going into the city,” said Jolynn Garrell, a club member. “Instead of fixing up their car, they fix up their lawn mower.”

The jacked-up machines zigzagged through the grandstands, each driver patiently waiting his or her turn.

Drivers pulled one at a time, competing to see who could pull the weight the farthest. Each division required different amounts of weight — most just above or below 1,000 pounds.

Some of the growling mini-tractors were manned by children as young as 5 competing in the children’s division. Thirteen-year-old Taylor Britt and her brother, 9-year-old Christian Britt, were among the participants, taking turns on their yellow and white tractor.

Christian pulled 132 feet, while Taylor pulled 180 feet, 3 inches — good enough for third place in her division. Lead-footed Christian divulged the siblings’ secret: “Hold the pedal to the floor,” he said.

The two were at the pull with their mother, Amy Britt, and father, Steve Britt. While Amy videotaped the action, Steve helped with logistics.

“It’s been a fun family thing,” Amy said. “We’re just getting into it.”

Garrell said that’s how it starts, and she should know — she’s been doing it for more than 10 years.

“It’s really a crowd-pleaser,” Garrell said. “And once you do it, you get hooked.”

Lumberton resident Franklin Cox caught the bug nearly 25 years ago. While his red tractor looks almost like a regular lawn mower, it’s large vertical muffler and unmistakable rev give away it’s raw power — a gift from its V-twin engine.

While he waited his turn, Cox charged the battery, fueled up and checked the air pressure of the mower, which had a muffer capped by a cut-out soda can.

“That’ s a muffler cover, to keep people from dropping something in it or dust flying into your motor,” Cox said.

Not far away, 6-year-old Olivia Cox sat on the sidelines as her father scraped the track in a large John Deere tractor. Olivia’s quiet demeanor changed when she revved the motor for her turn. She pulled 126 feet, 3 inches.

Just outside the grandstands, Kaliyah Sealey was experiencing a different kind of thrill. Visiting with goats, emus and zebus, the Lumberton resident was overcome with excitement and fear.

While she was feeding a goat, a hungry emu came by and lunged toward her —an upsetting prospect for the 5-year-old.

“He scared me,” Kaliyah said. “I like feeding them, but not that guy — he’s so mean.”

The fair will end its record-setting nine-day run at midnight on Saturday.

Events scheduled for today at the Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair include:

— Toddler Trot, McDonald’s Midway Stage

— Registration for 4-H Lamb Show, 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Livestock Arena

— Registration for 4-H Heifer/Steer Show, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Livestock Arena

— Fair open to the public, 11 a.m. to midnight

— 4-H Lamb Show, 11 a.m., Livestock Arena

— Graphic Packaging Family Days, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Antique tractor tent South Ticket Area

— Companion Home Care/Unimed Company Family Days, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., McDonald’s Tent behind Al Parnell Jr. Home Exhibit building

— Quickie Manufacturing Company Family Days, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., South Tent Gate 10

— 17th Annual Chicken Bog Cook Off, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., South Tent Gate 10

— 4-H Youth Heifer/Steer Shows, 2 p.m., Livestock Arena

— Kandu and Company, 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., Roaming Grounds

— Youth Steak Cook-Off, 2 p.m., picnic area south side

— 35th Annual Diaper Derby, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., McDonald’s Midway Stage

— Old County Fair Afternoon, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., McDonald’s Midway Stage

— Pedal Tractor Drag Racing, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., Livestock Building

— Alan Sands Comedy Hypnotist, 5:30 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., McDonald’s Midway Stag

— Demo Derby, 7 p.m., Grandstand Track Area

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