CHAPEL HILL - The Lions Club tractor pull here has gone international - again.
"We have two tractors from the Netherlands," says Chris Gilbert, chairman of the Lions Super Pull of the South, a two-day sporting event conducted July 23-24 at Forrest High School's football stadium.
"We have had some pullers from Canada before," Gilbert says, "but never from Europe.
"They are 47-time European and Dutch champions," he said of the Dutch tractors. "They are probably the most notable addition this year."
They are the Lambada Pulling Team with Willem, Gert and Wim Dingerink from Zwolle, the Netherlands, the tractor pull chairman said.
Lambada is entering two tractors, he said. One is a limited modified tractor with five automotive engines. These are probably hemi engines. The other is called a mini-modified tractor with one automotive engine on it with a total of 2,500 horsepower and a total weight of only 2,000 pounds. And they are competing in the entire Grand National Circuit.
"Then," Gilbert continued, "we have our usual fantastic contingent of our super stock diesel tractors, two- and four-wheel drive trucks along with the Unlimited, Modified, and Mini Modifieds.
The tractors pull a sled with moveable weights that are adjusted during the event to increase the difficulty of the pull as the tractor progresses down the track. Weights are added and removed for the various classes. There are some tractors pulling the sled with weights of 140,000 pounds.
"So, we have competitors from all over the United States and now Europe vying for nearly $100,000 in prizes and awards," the chairman said. "The money comes from sponsors, the gate and concessions, everything. There's a total team effort."
Attendance remains strong, Gilbert said: "We are expecting between 18,000 to 20,000 total for the two nights. It is the single biggest sporting event in the county every year."
The crowd dwarfs the population of this town frequently reported at some 1,000 people.
The 34th annual Lions Super Pull of the South starts at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights.
The program starts with the national anthem and, this year, the presentation of the colors will be in conjunction with a parade of cars from Lyons Chevrolet in Lewisburg.
"All of this is sponsored by the Lions Club," Gilbert said, "but we couldn't do this without the support of everybody here in Chapel Hill, the schools, all the volunteers and the Sheriff's Department, the city police and fire departments. I don't want to leave anybody out because it is a total community effort.
The tractor pull contest is clearly a huge fundraiser for the Lions Club, but the service group uses the money to support the community and the causes of the Lions Club.
Recently, the Lions donated money for the purpose of a church building that's to be transformed into a senior citizens center and a town library.
"We donate approximately $25,000 to our sight program each year and support Boy and Girl scouts, athletic programs and the libraries at the Forrest School and Chapel Hill Elementary School, and Forrest's Band of Blue," Gilbert said.
The inn at Henry Horton State Park is always sold out for the weekend and many of the visitors stay in motels in Lewisburg and at the Interstate 65 interchange with State Route 99.