Working the crowd
By Susan Fotovich McCabe
Dave Bennett knows a crowd pleaser when he sees one. For that matter, he knows how to work the crowd, too. As "the voice" of the Western Farm Show's annual Championship Tractor Pull, Bennett brings the sport of pulling to thousands of cheering fans who fill Kansas City's Kemper Arena for the three-day event.
Bennett is already checking out the competition, making predictions and getting a feel for the behind-the-scenes stories the fans want to hear. After 30 years in the business of announcing tractor pulls, he does it with ease.
"The U.S. was built on competition, and that always gets the crowd going," Bennett says. "If you travel the circuit and you know who to expect to do well, then you usually have some good ideas. But then again, you never know what can happen!"
The three-day pull begins at 6 p.m. each night, Feb. 21 to 23. The Western Farm Show has partnered with The Outlaw Truck and Tractor Pulling Association in Carthage, Mo., to bring the pull to the show. According to Outlaw Truck and Tractor Pulling Association President Doug Roberts, 150 drivers will compete for a little more than $64,000 in prize money.
Each night of the competition features three new and different types of classes, all with high horsepower. Additionally, each night will offer a different class of diesel powered tractors, pickups (4x4 or 2-wheel drive). Multi-engine modified vehicles will run on Feb. 22 with the other classes. In each class, Bennett says fans will be keeping a careful watch on how drivers handle weight distribution and how they read the track.
"It's quite an art to feel the dirt, judge the dirt and understand all the components to move that weight," he says. "You have to be able to put it all together to be the best."
Those who follow the sport of pulling--the "gearheads"--understand all the nuances, from the mechanics to the lifts and spins, Bennett says. The younger crowd, he adds, is enthused by the noise and power. Some women in the crowd are there cheering on the few female drivers who compete. One to watch, according to Bennett, is 16-year-old Larissa Atnip from Jasper, Mo. The Feb. 21 competition will be the first time down the track for Atnip and her 2005 Ford 350. Atnip was at last year's pull vowing to see everyone in 2013.
Other big names to watch on the first night of the pull, and who Bennett expects to do well, include Larry Hollis from Thayer, Mo., and Gregg Mears of Faucett, Mo.
"These are guys who are always on top of their game," Bennett says. "I'll be hyping Larry and Gregg and I'm sure they won't let me down."
The Western Farm Show is the region's largest indoor display of farm equipment, and is located in the American Royal Complex, next door to Kemper Arena. It is owned and operated by the SouthWestern Association, which represents nearly 1,800 farm, construction, industrial and outdoor power equipment dealers, as well as 2,400 hardware retailers in eight states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
The 2013 Western Farm Show runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 24. More than 500 exhibitors will be on site, as well as The Family Living Center and Health-and-Safety Roundup, geared for the entire family.
Admission to the pull is $17 on Feb. 21, $22 on Feb. 22 and $27 on Feb. 23. Tickets can be purchased on site at the Western Farm Show, the Kemper Arena box office and through Ticketmaster. All seating is general admission. The first 500 kids each night will receive a free checkered flag. Western Farm Show admission is $8 at the door or $5 with a discount coupon, which is available by visiting a participating SouthWestern Association dealer. Children under 12 get in free. For more information, visit the Western Farm Show website at www.westernfarmshow.com.