Garden tractor pull contest slowly approaching

Photo by Patrick Shea A founding member of the San Luis Valley Antique Iron Club (SLVAIC), Jim Clare helped write the club’s bylaws and will be at the Del Monte Gun Club on Oct. 15 for a garden tractor pull competition.

ALAMOSA COUNTY — Competitive garden tractor drivers will convene at the Del Monte Gun Club in Alamosa County on Oct. 15 to see who can pull a sled the farthest. Without exceeding 3 mph, drivers will try to cover as much ground as possible until they can’t move forward anymore.

The contest continues a tradition that the San Luis Valley Antique Iron Club (SLVAIC) started more than 22 years ago.

“The first events we had were some tractor pulls at Ski Hi Park,” noted club historian, bylaws writer, and active competitor Jim Clare. “We probably had 25 or 30 tractors,” Clare added, emphasizing that people came from the Arkansas Valley and other parts of Colorado to show off their antiques in action.

Today at the Del Monte Gun Club on Highway 160 between Monte Vista and Alamosa, Clare explained, “we try to have at least three major events on the track every year.”

With 37 years experience working for the San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative (SLVREC) and 25 years as a volunteer firefighter, Clare also helped other organizations and was familiar with creating bylaws and assembling a board.

“I helped them put together bylaws and the procedures to become a 501(3)(c),” Clare said, noting how other members also contributed two decades ago. “Our main intent of becoming a 501(3)(c),” Clare continued, “was to maybe start a museum somewhere.”

The veteran competitor and restoration enthusiast said the group hopes to fence off an outdoor display on the empty lot across from the Rio Grande County Museum in Del Norte. SLVAIC has previously displayed farm implements in the museum, and Clare family artifacts are on display at the Saguache County Museum as well.

The Del Monte Gun Club is a designated recreational park area in Alamosa County. In addition to shooting facilities, the park includes the SLVAIC pull track with spectator seating and tillage equipment and thrashing machines on display.

“We’re hoping to get quite a few people to show up,” Clare anticipated. Separated into at least eight weight classes, the old equipment must be manufactured before 1960 to qualify. Clare said entry into the world of competitive pulling is lower for garden tractors. “We’re trying to get more FFA [Future Farmers of America] and 4-H kids involved.”

One of at least four clubs in Colorado, SLVAIC meets once a month at the Colorado Potato Administration Council (CPAC) office next to Safeway in Monte Vista. Dating back to the group’s roots, renovating old equipment to honor antiquity is as much a part of SLVAIC as the competitions and museum curation. Newcomers are welcome to stop by the CPAC office at 7:30 on Oct. 5 to learn more about the club and upcoming events.

Clare recalled having more than 100 spectators for competitions at Ski Hi Park in the past, yet he also added, “Some of the wives say it’s kind of like watching the grass grow. But an old farmer will say, ‘I was raised on one of those.’”

Tractor pulls and drag races are exact opposites. Before most of the two-car duels at the Center Drag Races on Leach Air Field in Saguache County this summer, racers spun out their tires before reaching the start line. Tractor pullers, on the other hand, hit their finish line when their tires spin out and they’re basically stuck.

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