CHAPEL HILL - With a modest chance of rain when the biggest tractor pull in the South starts tonight, there's a high probability of satisfaction among the crowds estimated at about 19,000 people.
"I think it will be OK," Chris Gilbert, chairman of the Lions Super Pull of the South, said of the weather forecast. "If it rains we can cover the track" with a tarpaulin that's 50 feet wide and 450 feet long.
"We've had one rainout in 33 years," Gilbert said, "and it wasn't a complete rainout; just one night."
"All the equipment and sleds are checked before we have an event," Gilbert said.
"If it rains, you stop," he said. "If it's slick, there's no traction for the tractors."
National Weather Service meteorologist David Matson concurs with Gilbert's assessment of the weather.
"Friday night looks fine," Matson said: "Mostly clear Friday evening, "No problem there.
"Saturday night, there's a chance of storms ... a 40 percent chance of a thunderstorm. At this time they do not look like they will be severe," Matson said.
The National Tractor Pulling Association sanctions the two-day sporting event conducted at Forrest High School.
"The Lions Club owns the area where the old football field was," Gilbert said. "It's now known as the soccer field," he continued, knowing full well that everybody in town knows it's now a tractor pull track.
Many of the hotels and motels in Lewisburg, Murfreesboro, Franklin, Lawrenceburg and Columbia are packed with competitors and their audience, Gilbert said. At least one Nashville TV station's news department may have a camera crew in town for a newscast report.
"AirEvac has a helicopter (ambulance) to be here unless they have a call," Gilbert said.
The Chapel Hill Lions Club is the second largest Lions Club in Tennessee, he said.
Tractor pulls are a significant part of the organization's fundraising efforts to underwrite its charitable projects.
"We donate more money to our White Cane project than any other club in the state," Gilbert said.
The tractor pull "brings in a lot of people to Marshall County for motels, shops, gasoline and sales," the event chairman said. "It is a Lions Club project, but it takes the whole community to put it on; family, wives, friends."
The tractor pull is a "100 percent charitable program," he said. Proceeds help schools' libraries, the Forrest High School Rocket Band of Blue, athletic teams, facilities and "our most important program: the Lions Club's White Cane program for which the local Lions donate $35,000 annually."