The roar of the engines and the sights of smoke and dust signalled the thunderous return of Tractor Pulling to Swift Current after an over two decade absence this past weekend.
The 2014 Redhead Equipment Case IH Tractor Pulls drew large crowds for shows on July 11 and 12, with competitors from across Alberta and Saskatchewan turning out for a pair of three-hour performances.
Fans were treated to smoke filled skies and loud roars from hard working engines, along with the unexpected misfires which make the sport so entertaining. They were also brought to their feet by the sight of the fire show from Brad Bloodoff's Jet Blue, and the sheer power of Bill Cole's Big Red Express Truck.
Both days featured a wide range of pulling vehicles, spanning the decades from 50s vintage tractors to Bloodoff's helicopter turbine fitted motor.
The LT Motorsports Tractor Pulling Team from Yorkton ran four vehicles during the two day event, and team owner Larry Hilworth said the sport is starting to make a comeback on the prairies.
Hilworth remembers watching tractor pulling as a teenager, and he had an opportunity to sponsor a recent event in Yorkton which helped fuel his passion for the sport. In fact, less than a year later, he found himself as a competitor instead of a spectator.
"It's just starting to make a comeback I think. Tractor pulling disappeared for 10 or 15 years. And now it's starting to make a comeback. But it gets expensive to run. It's just like any motorsport."
In Swift Current, Hilworth overpowered his competitors in Ole Buck, a 1967 JD 5020 which formerly ran as The Mapleizer.
"That's stock rear end and everything else. And it's got a stock John Deere engine, it's been tweaked a bit. But those things were like 100 horsepower. That's a 1967 tractor. But that's putting out about 1,100 horsepower right now," he explained of the vehicle he originally bought sight unseen over the internet.
He runs with fellow Yorkton competitors, Bloodoff, Gerald Muyzka and Geno Holawatuik.
Bloodoff gets to be behind the wheel of Jet Blue, the only turbine powered tractor pulling in Western Canada.
Muyzka had his first run aboard the newly refurbished The Undertaker, and while making it's first ever pull in Swift Current the engine had an oil fire and the crew worked feverishly to have it ready to run for the second day.
Holowatuik was behind the wheel of the Ford alcohol burning tractor The Punisher for just the second time. This tractor made its way north from Pennsylvania, and boasts a pedigree where it won the 2010 Winter Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky.
Hilworth, who had three personal coaches when he was in business, admits he put his friends on hold while focussing on work. As he was preparing to retire they told him to get into something, and the group settled on tractor pulling.
"It gets us all together. We get to sit in my shop, wrench on these things, and it's comradery," Hilworth said. "It just grew. It wasn't planned, it just grew."
And while there are long hours to prepare their vehicles for the track, and a big commitment to travel for shows, they are truly passionate about putting on a good show for the fans.
"When you get on it and you have that 20 second good pull, oh what a rush! Everybody's happy tonight. When things work right you're happy."
"When it becomes a chore then we're not going to do it. While it's still fun, and you go and you break some stuff and it costs you money to fix it, but then if you win a race or two they give you a little bit of money so it kind of gives you more hope again to keep doing it."