Tractor Pull marks 40 years
The Lions Club Super of the South, celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, will be hot in more ways than one this weekend at Chapel Hill as fans and pullers from all over the country make their annual trek to the eight-time award winning event.
The dedicated members of the Chapel Hill Lions Club coupled with extraordinary community volunteerism over the past four decades has been the key to the success of the pull.
"I am extremely honored to be representing the Lions Club this year in the 40th anniversary," said Phillip Manners, the current president of the Lions Club. "It speaks volumes for this community that this has become such a big success because of the sponsors who help us put this on, the Lions Club and the entire community in the whole that comes out to help."
It's Tractor Pull weekend and that's all that's needed to be said in a community that has seen the event become a normal part of life in Chapel Hill.
"It's part of Chapel Hill and if you live here, you become part of this," Manners said.
Multiple generations have had the pull ingrained in their way of growing up and the community has lost many of the original members who started the event back in our country's bicentennial year.
The event has helped thousands of people over the 40 years in its charitable donations that would not be possible without the success of the tractor pull.
"We support all the Lions Club International charities, the Soldiers Foundation, all the schools here in Chapel Hill, as well as all the athletic programs," Manners said. "I would hate to see what this community would be like without the help of the Lion Club and the people in this community that support this event."
One those cherished Lions Club people who was symbolic of the Chapel Hill spirit of volunteerism was the late Norman Henson, who attended 37 tractor pulls before becoming ill.
Henson, who passed away a year ago today was a recipient of the Melvin Jones Fellow Award, the highest award a Lions Club member can receive and was the Chapel Hill Citizen of the Year in 2003.
"Mr. Henson was an inspiration to all of us and as you have heard me tell you many times before, he was the most respected gentleman I have ever known," longtime friend Dean Delk said. "When I first moved here to Chapel Hill I was introduced to the Tractor Pull and I was assigned to the south gate with Mr. Henson and he operated that gate just the way he operated his everyday life. Folks loved him, they worked for him and he never had to ask anybody to do anything, they would ask him, what can I do, what can I do?"
At the South Gate, where Henson volunteered for many years will be a sign naming the entrance in honor of Henson with those words Delk said his friend would say when the engines began to roar on the track.
"Here they come, get ready, I can hear home right now," Delk said. "I can hear home right now. He would look both ways, wave that towel, wipe that sweat off his head and you would hear the rallying cry."
A 1951 graduate of Marshall County High, Henson got his first teaching job at Forrest in 157 and went on to have an extraordinary career in education, becoming principle at Forrest in 1965.
Around in spirit
"He is not with us in body, but he will always be here in spirit," Delk said. "This relates to everybody and it is such a privilege to be associated with Mr. Henson, who was such a great guy."
Henson, whose grandson Colin joined the Forrest football coaching staff this season loved sports, loved coaching and loved the Tractor Pull according Dean Delk, who along with Henson have the Intermediate School in Chapel named for two longtime friends.
"He was an inspiration to us all and he was synonymous with the south gate and we thought this would be a small tribute to him and this will now be known as Henson's South Gate," Delk said.
Temperatures are expected to reach triple digits for the weekend as Manners and the staff prepared for the event.
"Things are moving right along and are coming together pretty good," Manners said on Monday. "It's gonna be hot and we have venders that come in and set up water stations and our concession stands will be fully equipped to serve our fans."
Manners talked about how the heat will affect the track, saying, "I think it will keep it dry and I think we will have to put a lot of water down, Ken (Lamb) does a great job with that and he will make all those decisions."
Another aspect from the heat will be how the machines adapt to how the high heat and humidity.
"The humidity affects them more than anything, bringing those big diesels up to speed," Manners said. "But, I think it will be a fast track and I know the pullers will like that."
Manners talked about why the event is such a great success, saying, "The preseason ticket sales have been going good because this is the best pull in the south, the best pull in the NTPA (National Tractor Pull Association). Plus, there is $100,000 in prize money and that is a big incentive for these pullers to come here."