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When people think of truck and tractor pulls in Kentucky, it’s a good bet that Lawrenceburg is fast becoming the first location that comes to mind.
Although shortened to just one day due to last Friday’s rainy weather, the Battle of the Bluegrass event in the county park proved successful and marks the second time in as many years that Lawrenceburg has played host to the largest outdoor pull in Kentucky, according to organizer Eddie Carey.
“That makes me feel good about our county,” Carey said. “We are getting recognized by the competitors and those who attend.”
Carey estimated that 3,500 people attended the Saturday portion of the pull, which featured 120 competitors both local and from across the country.
Timed to coincide with the annual Burgoo Festival and a burgeoning Civil War re-enactment, the pull helped pump outside money into Anderson County’s struggling economy, according to Burgoo Festival organizer David Montgomery.
“The restaurants at Eagle Lake were packed and a couple of the restaurants in town were packed,” Montgomery said. “The truck pull brought in thousands of people and did outstanding business.”
It also ginned up interest in the Civil War re-enactment, which started out as a small display a couple of years ago but this year featured a battery of cannon, soldiers on horseback and an entertaining battle between Yankee and Rebel soldiers.
“There were about 500 people on Saturday watching the re-enactors, but only 50 to 100 on Sunday,” Montgomery said. “That’s how much the truck pull helped out.”
Despite rain Friday night, Burgoo vendors reported having a banner year, particularly those selling food.
“Some ran out of food who never had before,” Montgomery said. “Freedom Baptist ran out early Saturday, and they bought more fish than ever before. They couldn’t open Sunday because they didn’t have any fish.
“I had a lot of comments that it was probably the best festival we’ve had in a long time. It was just outstanding … I’m tickled to death.”
Having three large events at one time in Lawrenceburg presented a host of logistical and safety issues, not the least of which was where to park thousands of cars over the weekend.
Organizers worked with local police and city and county officials to reroute park traffic and, at times, close portions of the park’s roads to accommodate the events.
Montgomery said traffic control wasn’t an issue, nor was parking so many cars.
“Everything went smoothly,” he said.
Montgomery said having people from outside of Anderson County proved a boon to the Burgoo Festival because resident attendance was poor.
“If it weren’t for people from out of town, the vendors downtown wouldn’t have made any money at all,” he said. “It didn’t seem as many local people were there this year.”
As in the past, Main Street was closed between the courthouse and Glensboro Road to allow an array of vendors to set up their food and merchandise tents on the street. Main Street also played home to an array of politicians seeking office ranging from judge-executive candidates to Rand Paul, a Republican gunning for a seat in the US Senate.
Paul supporters were out in droves and celebrated the opening of a campaign office on Court Street.
Saturday night’s pull marked the third time Carey has worked to bring big-time competitors to Lawrenceburg. As with the first two pulls, Carey said all of the net proceeds will be used to improve the county-owned park, although it was unclear Monday just how much the pull had raised.
Carey said putting on the event costs upward of $30,000 — a tough nut to meet when half of the event is cancelled due to rain.
A pull earlier this year also included a rainout, but Carey was able to donate $7,000 toward building a chain-link fence around the pulling track, along with another $1,000 donation from his son, a competitor who won his pulling class during the event.
Carey said the competitors told him how much they like coming to Lawrenceburg, and were eager after Saturday’s event to come back again.
“We had people from all over — Texas, Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee and Ohio. We even had one guy who sent in his trucks, flew in Friday, flew back out due to the rain and flew back in again Saturday before flying out Saturday night,” Carey said.
“It was a wonderful show, and just keeps getting better every year.”
Carey said his long-term goal is to have the pulls here rival the national events staged in other small cities that draw tens of thousands of visitors.
“We’re working on it,” he said.
E-mail Ben Carlson at firstname.lastname@example.org.