BURTON, Ohio – Joe Knautz’s friends used to hang out in his backyard a lot. The group liked to exchange stories, tell jokes and even offer each other advice once in awhile. But more than anything else, they liked truck pulls.
And Knautz’s backyard provided the perfect spot to have a little pulling fun. So, they brought their trucks and spent their evenings pulling, right there in the backyard.
In addition to the backyard pulls, the group of about eight also participated in some local truck pulls, but eventually, they wanted more.
Tired of “playing by everybody else’s rules,” as Knautz put it, the friends formed the Geauga Truck Pullers Association in 1995.
Still friends. Now, more than a decade later, that same small group is still scheduling sleds, preparing the track and registering vehicles for pulls.
For several years, the association hosted pulls in Troy Township, but in 2003 it moved its home base to the Geauga County Fairgrounds.
The group aims to put on events that accommodate everyone from beginning pullers to accomplished veterans of the track.
And while the Geauga Truck Pullers Association is there to have fun, Knautz said there’s good, old-fashioned competition as well.
“We don’t put on shows, we put on competitions,” said Knautz, a founding member and former president of the association.
The association’s track is also a proving ground for anyone who needs a place to test and tune, he added.
Why they do it. For some pullers, it’s the thunder of the engine, the cheers of the crowd and the glory of a full pull that brings them back time after time. But for other pullers, like Barb Gray, there’s more to it than trucks and track.
“It’s an excuse to get together,” said Gray, the association’s secretary/treasurer.
It’s a hobby. It’s something to look forward to. It’s an activity that allows them to include spouses, children, neighbors and anyone else who wants to join – like a “giant, unspoken family,” according to Knautz.
However, that’s not to say it’s entirely warm fuzzies and hugs. Sometimes there’s no denying the best part really is winning.
“I like that I beat the guys,” Gray said with a sly smile.
Unfortunately, organizing a truck pull leaves a lot less time for actual pulling, according to Gray and Knautz.
The association consists of volunteer members who donate dozens of hours to track preparation, finding track equipment, lining up sponsors, scheduling sleds, getting insurance, advertising and securing extra help for the day of a pull. Plus, it’s up to members to keep the pull going once it starts and pull days can easily turn into 12-hour ordeals, according to Gray.
“But we always come back for more,” she said.
Devoted. That dedication seems to be a deeply rooted concept for these truck pullers.
“I’ve always liked trucks since I was a little kid,” said association president Rob Pruchnicki, who spent his childhood watching pulls from the stands.
When he got old enough and owned a truck good enough, he joined the ranks of northeast Ohio truck pullers.
Pruchnicki still manages to find time to do some pulling and he hasn’t missed a Geauga Truck Pullers Association pull since the club formed.
The association hosts pulls every year, including benefit pulls when the need arises, and the number of entries has ranged from 30 to 200.
Never dull. Members never know what they’re going to see when it comes to pulls. They’ve had everything from monster trucks to Hummers show up and they’ve seen odometers with less than 1,000 miles to more than 500,000 miles.
It doesn’t matter what a puller brings, though. Members of the association want to see competitors improve and continue to pull. In fact, they’re so serious about spreading their passion, they’ve been known to give tips to other pullers, share weights and take parts off their own trucks to help others out.
See, it’s not about having the newest truck or the best tires or the coolest paint job. It’s about pulling. And all the association hopes for at the end of a pull is enough money to run the next one.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at email@example.com.)
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